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Vincent Salandria Interview by David Starks
Previously unpublished. Copyright © 1994 David Starks and used with permission.

This 1994 interview (01:17:25) was conducted by David Starks in Vincent Salandria’s home in Philadelphia. A transcript of the interview is in process and will be included here in the near term.

David Starks [Missing beginning...] studying the JFK assassination.
Vincent Salandria On the weekend of the assassination, I discussed this with my then-brother-in-law, Harold Feldman who wrote on this matter, and since has died. And we talked about Oswald, the alleged assassin. And we said that one had to maintain an open mind on the issue of whether or not he was the assassin and whether or not there was a conspiracy. But that open mind would have to close if during the course of the weekend Oswald was killed.
When Oswald was killed both of us decided that this was a matter which could not be entrusted to the government. That the investigation of it would have to be undertaken by private individuals and that perhaps we would, on this matter, have to do work ourselves.
David Starks What do you consider your specialization or focus of the research or the work that you’ve done over the years? —These may seem like obvious questions but....
Vincent Salandria I initially investigated this matter in 1964 in cooperation with Mark Lane. Harold and I went to Dallas. We met with, and I remained with, for four days, Marguerite Oswald, the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. We investigated the Tenth Street patent killing of Tippit. We came across Acquilla Clemons through the intervention of Marguerite Oswald. Acquilla Clemons was a woman who live across the street from the killing and saw two men on opposites sides of the street conversing with one another, calling to one another, and one of them going to the Tippit car and killing Officer Tippet.
We questioned Helen Markham and her husband. I must say that before we got to her that we saw a Dallas Police Car pulling away.
When we spoke to those people I’ve never seen that kind of terror. Their teeth were actually chattering. I only could get a little from them because of their terror.
When we began, I began as, really, an investigator. I collected newspaper articles which seemed to point in the direction of Oswald being a US intelligence operative. An agent provocateur. When we put these together Harold wrote an article for The Nation which was called “Oswald and the FBI.” That’s what we were doing initially.
Then The Warren Report came out and I read it. I remember calling Harold after I read it and said {where to put the close quote?}, “It seems clear to me, the report is totally convincing. It had to be, this assassination, [at] the very core of the American government, the highest level of power. Because the report reveals quite clearly an assassination by conspiracy. And then comes out with a conclusion that one man did it and did it alone. This contradiction, of the conclusion against the evidence is a manifestation of great arrogance and great power. Only the center of the American power structure could have effectuated this and expected that the American press would play along with it.”
And whereupon I went with my report, the Warren Commission report, to a meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association, immediately after the report came out. The meeting was designed to pay an accolade to a Staffer of the Warren Commission who was of tremendous significance in solving the ammunition shortage which the Commission was confronted with having only three bullets with which to perform all the wounds and hits of Dealey Plaza. And that was, of course, Arlen Specter.
He made a presentation to the Bar Association members who were assembled there and then opened himself up to questioning. I directed some questions to him and he was unable to answer them.
When the meeting was over, my colleagues at the Bar—some of them—gathered around and said ‘Look, write an article on this.’ So I went home and that night, while dealing with other clients, I wrote the first analysis of the shots, trajectories, and wounds of the Warren Commission, sent it to the then-Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar, Theodore Voorhees, and said ‘The Bar Association has paid honor to Mr. Specter. I think that there are problems in the analysis of the assassination as set forth in the Warren Commission Report. Do you have the courage to put a dissenting view in a law journal?’ His answer was, he put it—that article, “The Warren Report - Analysis of Shots, Trajectories, and Wounds: A Lawyer’s Dissenting View”—in the oldest legal journal in the United States, The Legal Intelligencer, that analyzed the shots, trajectories, and wounds, and concluded with the idea that the Warren Commission Report was totally convincing and everybody should believe what it provided in evidence. And what it provided in its evidence was conclusive evidence that there was a major conspiracy in the killing of the President.
It was the first attack of the single bullet theory—the first analysis I know printed anywhere in the world—and I must say that I should get no credit for that, whatever. I did it while dealing with clients, in between clients, and answering phones. I did it that night. I don’t think it took three hours of work. It just rushed out at me from the Warren Commission Report.
It’s almost as if the government wanted us to know that this was an act of great power and that evidence be damned. It didn’t matter. That it was not the evidence that mattered, but the affairs of state that mattered. It was not the people that mattered, but it was the government, and its legitimacy—or illegitimacy—that mattered.
That’s what the Warren Commission Report cried out to me. And I’m a man of limited intelligence, limited ability—never fired a rifle in my life—and was able to see what they were telling us if we wanted to know. If we wanted to know. But once you know—that as you know Dave—then you become committed to the idea of doing something about this. And the job was, for the American media, to make this look so complex, so prolix, so difficult to comprehend, so subject to debate that public would weary of trying to know. When in fact, the public did believe, always did believe that there was a conspiracy. And the public was permitted to believe, but it was not permitted to know the obvious. That it had a gangster government, led by the military-industrial complex under the control of the intelligence system which would manipulate us internally and seek to provide hegemony over the whole world in terms of American military power. We would become more militarized. We would become more aggressive, more imperial. And at home we would become just a façade of a democratic structure. Manipulated by the covert, black bag aspects of our governmental structure. [A digression about dogs ensues.]
David Starks I’m not looking for five-second sound bites but I know that we could go on for an hour on each one of these questions. But we want to try to keep them a little shorter if we can. And I feel uncomfortable saying that.
Vincent Salandria No, no, please say it. Don’t hesitate to say whatever you have to say.
David Starks Okay. Now you answered second and third question in one shot and I assume that your initial challenge to the single bullet theory would probably be what you would consider your most significant accomplishment in the case.
Vincent Salandria No.
David Starks No?
Vincent Salandria Well, okay, I would say, No.
David Starks Then the next question is what do you consider your most significant accomplishment?
Vincent Salandria I think my most significant accomplishment, Dave, is understanding that what I did, in terms of being the first one to attack the single bullet theory, was not important in understanding that, the government really probably wanted us to involve ourselves in the minutiae of the evidence. To take an endless microanalytic look at the evidence and to delve into that and to fetishize it and not to get out of it and to look above it and to take a macro analytic look at the evidence and ascertain what it means. What it meant. What the motivation was. Why the assassination was in fact perpetuated, perpetrated, and how it was going to operate in the society—the people who did—how they were going to exercise their power and how they were going to change direction of the society.
So what I think the most significant thing I did was to pull myself out of this microanalysis and to try to explain why it happened. To give a model of explanation. That, I think, is the important thing that I did. I departed from the rest of the critics [and] took myself away from them and said, Look, lets try to make some sense out of this. Lets try to say what it was behind the assassination and how the assassins are operating, if they are, to affect our society. That is I think—I did that very early and I think that was an important move.
David Starks It’s interesting, a lot of the critics now, the ones that I feel are the most responsible critics make that point is that, Let’s not get lost in the maze of Dealey Plaza. Let’s get beyond Dealey Plaza and I agree with you, that’s very significant.
Why is this case still so important three decades later?
Vincent Salandria I think it’s most relevant to our society. I think that what happened in Dealey Plaza was that a duly elected President was fired. That the constitutional process was relegated to a paper thin façade. That what was left at that time, to American democracy, was relegated to theatrics; to the theatre of the absurd. And that what is happening now is a continuation of what was set forth then and that is, that we became more a militarized society.
Under the guise of Cold War we were told that the increase in governmental expenditures to the military sector of the economy was necessary. So we began to spend on the order of 300 billion dollars of national wealth per year on the military industrial complex which caused us to neglect the private sector, neglect education, neglect health service delivery to the poor, neglect increasing poverty, neglect the homeless. Neglect in short an effort to make the society fair, and to make the wealth of the country more equally and equitably distributed so that we’d have a state which we could be proud of, where the needs of our people would be met. Whether it be upward social mobility, which I enjoyed, and the future of the society could enjoy.
Instead we became militarized. Instead rather than being competitive economically and maintaining our competitive edge and being able to maintain the highest standard of living in the world, we have been slipping. And now we have slipped to eleventh or twelfth in our standard of living. The number of poor increases. The injustice of this unequal distribution of wealth escalates. Public education is neglected. The poor are neglected. And we see that although the Cold War has dissipated, the military expenditures remain pretty much flat, hanging close to 300 billion dollar a year point. We find the President, who I think is a basically decent man, nonetheless coming out for increased expenditures—in the absence of a cold war—for “intelligence.”
That’s why it’s so significant. The people who seized power, November 22, 1963 at Dealey Plaza, are still in power and are still distorting the quality of the American constitutional structure and are still destroying the quality of life in this society. Destroying our cities—treating our cities like third world cities. They don’t bomb them like they bombed Hanoi or Baghdad. But nonetheless, they look very much like they’ve been bombed. Look at Philadelphia, which was a city of neighborhoods, beautiful working class neighborhoods, with good housing stock. Go to north Philadelphia. I think that Hanoi at its worse would not compare this favorably to north Philadelphia today. That’s why it’s so important.
David Starks In North Philadelphia I went to school at Temple, main campus, and a couple of blocks off you're in the wastelands. I see exactly what you mean.
Is there is any hope of conclusively solving this case at this late date?
Vincent Salandria I think the case has been solved. It's the question of coming to the realization that it has been solved; that we know—we know. The government will have you believe anything. That's [??19:03] for democracy. You can believe anything. But if you purport to know something, like This government is illegitimate because it is really controlled by the military industrial intelligence complex and you act accordingly then the media will deal with you. Then you'll feel the weight of American governmental power.
So if you know this, and say you know it, you become an outlaw in terms of being able to communicate with people. But we have to get enough outlaws in that respect to say, We know what happened. We know this government is illegitimate. We know we don't have a democracy and we want our democracy back again. When enough of us say that, then we will get change.
But there's no mystery to this assassination. This matter is not debatable excepton arranged debates. In a fair debate there's no way, no way to support the proposition that there was no conspiracy in the killing of Kennedy and that conspiracy wasn't at the highest level of government, and that conspiracy didn't affect our government then, and isn't effecting our government, our economy, and our lives, in every material respect today.
David Starks This is a difficult question for some people and you can pass if you like. Who do you feel are the researchers or critics who may have contributed the most to our understanding of the case today. In other words who do you feel are some of the more responsible critics who have done good work over the years? I know you don't want to leave anyone out.
Vincent Salandria I would like to talk to that issue. I think that Gaeton Fonzi, who has just written The Last Investigation is perhaps the most responsible of the critics. Certainly the most responsible investigator. What he has done is historically significant. He has demostrated that the assassination was orchestrated by David Atlee Phillips and David Morales, both of whom were high-placed CIA officials. Not rightly nuts [??22:02], David Atlee Phillips was a gentleman in every respect. I'm sure respected by, loved by, loving of Allen Dulles. In the center of power of the CIA, Gaeton has demonstrated to anybody's complete satisfaction—anybody who reads that book thoroughly will say that he has done his homework, done it well, and proved that the assassination was orchestrated by the Centra Intelligence Agency. That's such historically important work—he did it himself. He did the work himself, therefore he knows it's correct and anybody who knows Gaeton and knows his passion for truth and his thoroughness and how careful he is, knows that he is right.
Now, why is that historically important? All other investigations which any way deviate from that design of the Central Intelligence Agency, having been at the center of the killing of Kennedy, any other investigation or investigative work either consciously or unconsciously is missing the mark. It can be used therefore, as a standard against which all other investigations can be compared. And if the other investigation does not comport with it it can be rejected. So Gaeton Fonzi was of enormous importance.
Sylvia Meagher was of enormous importance. Sylvia Meagher prepared an index on the Warren Report and also on the House Committee and that work was significant and aided researchers. She (of course) wrote, Accessories After The Fact which was perhaps the best book written in terms of the work and the modus operandi of the Warren Commission, destroying it as a responsible body. Sylvia did monumental work.
Garrison, for all his flaws which are so much emphasized by the American press, was a great man. His investigation, if you look at the trial notes, the transcripts, you'll find contributed importantly to the truth. The Clinton aspects of the Clay Shaw trial, where Clay Shaw was seen with Oswald in Clinton, Mississippi
David Starks —and also Ferrie in the same car
Vincent Salandria —and Ferrie. The Ferrie aspects of the investigation. The Finck testimony which demonstrates that there was no autopsy. Finck pointed out how Admirals and Generals came in and took over that autopsy—said they were in charge and forbad the autopsy specialists from tracking the hit in the back—which Sibert and O’Neill, the FBI agents who were observing it, said—did not exit. That testimony given under oath is of historical significance.
But think of what this man Garrison did. Garrison was a public official, enormously respected in New Orleans—I'm certain, was on his way, to becoming a governor. A much beloved man with great charisma. He was the only public official in the whole world who understood that the assassination was a very high level conspiracy of intelligence agents who had enormous power—and he took them on. What courage. What a hero. What a man. How deserving of our admiration. How deserving of the happy role he will play, and enjoy, in history.
There are the three people I most respect.
David Starks Would there be any purpose served, or do you think that—obviously this is idealism, but, if the situation presents itself, should we have another investigation? And, if so, how should it be? Would a special prosecutor be the best way or what do you feel about it?
Vincent Salandria If you're asking me whether the government, the murderers of John F. Kennedy, should conduct another investigation after having given such monumental lies in its first two investigations, heavens no. No more governmental investigation.
Should there be further investigation? Sure. We should zero in on the people who did it. Identify them. See them for what they are. Take them on no matter what their power. But that investigation should not be conducted by governmental circles. It should be conducted by private individuals, around the world. Because this affects not only this country, but around the world. Perhaps a million South Vietnamese died as a consequence of what happened in Dealey Plaza. The world, hanging always, between peace and war. And it's the interests of the people who killed Kennedy of maintaining war. To find enemies, to seek them desperately. To manufacture them. To have the American media play them up so that the weapons business can continue and that the greed can continue to be satisfied.
So that our job is to have international scholars from around the world join in the commission, very like, for example, the Dewey Commission which met with distinguished academicians, respected scholars, John Dewey, a very loved and respected philosopher and educator in the United States, heading up the commission, looking in to the issue of the purge trials in the Soviet Union that began after the assassination of Kirov, December 1, 1934. Which resulted in, eventually, the elimination of maybe a million old Bolsheviks. The Dewey commission determined, correctly, that all these confessions, in all these trials, were phoney. That the Soviet government was framing these people. And they were cooperating in many respects in the framing, out of their sense of duty to socialism, for the Soviet state. They went along to their deaths, sometimes admitting, confessing to their crimes which were no crimes at all.
So we found, literally, a million perhaps of old revolutionaries being killed with no evidence. But manufactured evidence. And the Dewey Commission was able to determine this and announce it to the world. Such a Commission, certainly having no connection with the United States Government—because the United States Government is the murderer. I would not turn over to the murders the job of determining who the murderers were. That, I think, lacks common sense. But I would turn it over to independent thinkers around the world who are willing to address power.
David Starks After the Stone film there was an outcry for the release of the files. During the election campaign for President, there was a question delivered to Clinton about whether he believed in the conspiracy. He deferred to his Vice Presidential partner, Gore, who stated that he did believe there was one. That leads to the question, should the President become involved? I know he has to appoint members to the review board to force the files out which are still being withheld. Do you think the President should become more actively involved in resolving the controversy for the American people? And can he do that?
Vincent Salandria I think, ideally, he should announce, that we had a coup on November 22, 1963. But practicably he cannot do that. I don't think we have had a president with any degree of power of any consequence since the killing of Kennedy. That the Dealey Plaza firing of Kennedy was, and continues, and will continue to be, a message to every president. You're just the president so much, and no more. We, the killers, own the presidency.
The Dealey Plaza killing of Kennedy did not only kill a president. It effectively killed the Presidency. Every president who has had to follow Kennedy, even one I can think of with very few brain cells, had to know what happened. Had to know therefore, what could happen, to him if he did not recognize where the power over the Presidency really lay.
So I suggest to you that yes, ideally, the President should openly advise the American public and the world that we had a coup but that, as a practicable matter, that is not going to happen. And therefore, it's up to the American people to use this politically. Not to divide up the society. And I suggest to you that the people who killed Kennedy had effectively managed to divide up the family, the country, in a very effective way: rich against poor, class against class, race against race, ethnic group against ethnic group; shattering old coalitions. That people must come together in the knowledge that a more open society will benefit all of us, will improve the quality of life for all of us, will improve the relations in the world for all the peoples of the world. And therefore all of us have a great stake in knowing the truth of that coup and reversing it. And organizing politically. One man, one president, won't be able to do it, Dave. Each of us who've come to know the truth must join together, organize politically, and struggle—maybe a long struggle—to defeat the power [of] those rulers who took over the Presidency in Dealey Plaza. No single president can do it for us. We have to do it....
The Bastard Bullet? And I'll give you; excuse me let give you something, his latest book is really an essay but (I hope I have a copy, yeah)—it's yours. [Salandria gives Stark a copy of Ray Marcus's The HSCA, The Zapruder Film, and the Single Bullet Theory (1992)] That destroys the single bullet theory, completely destroys it.
David Starks I noticed [inaudible] in the research journals, I managed to get all of The Third Decade and all of Paul Hoch's research journals ....
Vincent Salandria Let me say something about Ray Marcus, may I?
David Starks Sure.
Vincent Salandria May I just say something about one other critic who I think is very significant who is self-published and therefore not well known but of tremendous importance. And that is Raymond Marcus. Raymond Marcus wrote The Bastard Bullet which was a book that demonstrated, beyond the purview of a doubt, that CE, Commission Exhibit 399, the magic bullet, was a plant and could not have been anything else other than a government plant. He did it with such beautiful exercise of logic, such a vigorous application of common sense that you must consider him a scientist in this field. After all that's essentially what science is. The rigorous application of common sense and Ray Marcus has so much common sense. The logic which he employs in the magic bullet is so marvelously applied to this case that I he think he completely demolished the Warren Report.
He recently produced the House Select Committee on Assassinations, The Zapruder Film, and the Single Bullet Theory and this demonstrates beyond question that Kennedy and Connally were definitely hit by separate bullets and therefore the Warren Report had to be wrong and the House Select Committee Report which befriended the single bullet theory was a farce and so self-evident. Again, no mystery when you really apply careful thinking to the evidence, there's nothing left of this assassination which constitutes a mystery. It's so clear. And Marcus makes clear that the shot evidence of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee Report are clearly wrong. He does it brilliantly. And he deserves enormous credit.
David Starks I assume it's obvious that there were multiple shooters and you believe that. Do you think that Oswald was an agent of U.S. intelligence and, if so, was he even one of the shooters?
Vincent Salandria Dave he had to be an object, a servant, an agent of U.S. intelligence. He was a perfect patsy. Carefully selected by U.S. intelligence. Think of him: he was a U.S. Marine who, going the course of his Marine training, studied Russian? Now look, the U.S. Marines, like any military force anywhere in the world, is not a democratic institution. If he were studying Russian—he was—if he was studying Russian, then it was with the sanction of the U.S. military. He became a defector. His mother always felt, told me, told the Commission, that she never felt he was a defector. She went to Washington she told me and was treated with kid gloves; had an appointment in the State Department immediately. She was reassured not to worry about his defection when he had defected. He was sent over by U.S. intelligence to the Soviet Union, and in their program of trying to get fake defectors in the Soviet Union.
He was returned to the United States having married Marina, who was a niece of a KGB Colonel and the Soviets let him out which leads me to think that maybe he was doubled by the Soviets as a double agent. He returned and wrote to the American Communist party. He was interested in the Communist Party. He got a three-page response from Arnold Johnson of the Communist Party which leads me to be suspicious of that. At any rate they treated him with a great deal of respect.
He performed the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans and it was quite clearly the product of U.S. intelligence because he was the only member of that committee, a matter of some suspicion.
He was befriended by Michael Paine, who had secret clearance, working in Bell Helicopter although his father George Lyman Paine had been a Trotskyist and for that kind of clearance, when you're associated with the family with left wing connections of that sort some quid pro quo has to be given. So Michael Paine, very likely, was doing favors for U.S. intelligence in order to be able to have a secret clearance. He was associated with Oswald and he told me, Michael Paine told me, in an interview, that he would go with Oswald to right wing meetings in the Dallas area and that Oswald would take very careful notes afterwards and he was apparently reporting on the right wing in Dallas. Michael Paine told me he with him to the ACLU meeting and that Oswald joined the ACLU.
So what you see is Oswald being dipped into every aspect of the American political spectrum as my friend Jim Garrison was fond of saying, what he saw in New Orleans was the Cubanization process of Oswald. There he was being given pro-Castro airs.
Then of course, whether or not it was he, someone posing as Oswald made a scene in the Mexico City Russian Embassy and then the Cuban Embassy. Incidentally he was operating in New Orleans out of the same building which was being utilized by anti-Castro people. So he was identified with pro-Castro people, anti-Castro people, pro-Soviet people, U.S. Marine Corp, he was reportedly having shot at General Walker, attacking the right, and apparently also perhaps picketing against Stevenson with the right wing in Dallas.
He was all things to all political aspects of the American political spectrum. A typical pattern for an intelligence agency to follow, what they're doing is, making it impossible for any aspects of the American political scene to undertake investigation of attack on the official version for fear that they would be therefore vulnerable because Oswald had been associated with them. Associated with the liberals, associated with the right wing, associated with the Trotskyists, associated with the Soviet Union, associated with Castro—a perfect, a perfect patsy. Sure, he was associated with American intelligence.
Did he do any firing, Dave? No, he did no firing. With that rifle, which fired due to its sight, high and to the right; with that trigger mechanism which was defective, with his lack of skill as a marksman, he could have fired away all afternoon, right through the afternoon into the night and have done no damage. But was he doing any firing? No, the paraffin test indicated he hadn't fired a rifle. No, he did not do any firing, but will the American government try desperately to implicate him a firing, sure! Because, so long as they have that thread hanging on him and all his threads leading into every aspect of the American political, and even the Soviet and Castro scene, then they have an opportunity to threaten those people who would want to deliver the truth, you could counter by making this, Oh you're pro-Castro? You could counter, Dave, by making it a pro-Castro plot. Or, Oh you're a rightist? Or, Oh you're pro-Soviet? Or, Oh you're ACLU? You liberals want to come in on it? Well, you see, it's so convenient. He was dipped into so many paints of so many varieties of the American political scene that everybody is vulnerable. But no, he did no shooting.
David Starks So in a way, you have a mechanism set up ahead of time in a genius kind of manner to blackmail the Warren Commissioners so even if they stumble on the truth, they couldn't dare to reveal it because it would uncover all sorts of dirty tricks politics like, say, the Castro assassination plots. Obviously, it's very strange to see Oswald associating with George DeMohrenschildt and David Ferrie and all these people. The question in my mind—and I see you have Dick Russell's book [The Man Who Knew Too Much] which is very interesting—that there is such a wilderness of mirrors, the doubling and the tripling of agents, maybe Oswald didn't even know who he was working for. Maybe Oswald wasn't even sure what his loyalties were, he was playing a game.
Vincent Salandria I think that Oswald, for example, was working for the CIA and the FBI. When we get Wagonner Carr
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