The Justice Department conducted two scientific studies to evaluate the acoustic evidence that the HCSA used to come to its conclusion. In 1980 the FBI concluded that the HSCA's experts had neither proven that the sounds on the recording were gunshots nor shown that they originated in Dealey Plaza, where the assassination took place. Two years later a panel convened under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences found that the Dictabelt had been recorded in another location minutes after the assassination. Later independent studies have both confirmed and contradicted the findings of the HSCA sound analysts, leaving the matter in dispute.* Throughout the 1980s, the assassination controversy simmered, with no real breakthroughs on either side. At this point, assassination critics moved away from close examinations of the physical evidence and witness testimony to speculate about possible conspirators. Much of this speculation was fueled by the enormous amount of information generated by the previous government investigations and declassified documents. Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the HSCA, wrote a book stating what he could not get the Committee to agree upon -- that President Kennedy had been killed by the Mafia. Several other books, including David Scheim's Contract on America: The Mafia Murder of President Kennedy and John Davis's Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, made similar claims. Other authors blamed the CIA, anti-Castro Cubans, right-wing Texans, Corsican hit men, and the South Vietnamese. The critics had much new material to work with. Not only had the HSCA generated volumes of hearings and findings, but a flood of documentation concerning the CIA, the FBI, the Warren Commission, the Kennedy family and JFK's presidency, the Mafia, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and other highly charged subjects provided a great deal of information relating to the assassination. Still, the one piece of evidence that would blow the case wide open (or close it shut) remained elusive. In the early 1990s, two vastly different works showed that the JFK assassination remained a hotly contested issue, with no resolution in sight. Oliver Stone's film JFK, released in late 1991, portrayed the assassination as a coup d'état by the U.S. armed forces and the CIA, with Lyndon Johnson's complicity, to eliminate John F. Kennedy so that he would not pull American troops out of Vietnam. Many argued that the film was wildly inaccurate, and Stone himself admitted to taking a certain artistic license with the facts. Still, in numerous media appearances and interviews, Stone accused elements of the U.S. government of murdering the President and then covering up their crime. Whether all of Stone's claims were accurate or not, his film reinvigorated the assassination controversy and introduced the basic questions of a possible conspiracy to a generation of Americans who were not even alive at the time. As a result of the renewed attention, and Stone's repeated demands that all the government records pertaining to the assassination be made public, in 1992 the federal government established the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) to review the documents still sealed thirty years after the assassination. The ARRB decided to release nearly all the documents pertaining to the Warren Commission and also made a more comprehensive collection of documents from outside sources. Literally millions of pages of documents were made available, yet some still remained classified. In 1993 a book was published that made the most comprehensive and, to the minds of some, convincing case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin. Gerald Posner's Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK even made a strong argument for the single bullet theory. Posner's book was praised by defenders of the Warren Commission and attacked by its critics, just as Stone's movie had been praised by the critics and attacked by the defenders. These two polemics revealed how divided and antagonistic the debate over a conspiracy had become and how even the basic facts of the assassination were in question. And so today we find ourselves lost in a fog of unresolved argument. A Gallup poll conducted in 2003 found that 75 percent of Americans still believe that President Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. Meanwhile, defenders of the Warren Commission continue to make a case for the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. You might say that people believe what they want to believe, but that's taking the easy way out. We need to determine, beyond any reasonable doubt, who killed John F. Kennedy and how it happened. Although the questions provoked by his assassination and its subsequent investigations can still be debated, at some point we need to come to a conclusion. Otherwise, the nightmare continues, the wounds remain unhealed, and the controversy perpetuates itself, with no end in sight. This book is an effort to try to clear away some of the fog that surrounds the JFK assassination so that we can see it for what it is -- a simple act of murder.
At 12:30 P.M. on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy was riding in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza when someone shot him, causing bodily trauma that resulted in his death. This is a fact. Whatever we might feel about the tragedy, there is only one series of events that led to it. Either Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible or he was not. If he was responsible, he either acted alone or was part of a larger conspiracy. These are the questions this book tries to answer by examining the relevant evidence and arriving at logical conclusions. This is how murders are solved. And the JFK assassination, as traumatic as it has been, is like any other murder. A human being was killed intentionally and with malice. The suspect or suspects left clues that if gathered and analyzed correctly, will lead to their identity and establish a reasonably accurate hypothesis of how the murder occurred. The JFK assassination presents a unique challenge to the investigator. Usually in a murder case there's not enough information. In this case, there is too much. Some 450 books have been written. Half a dozen government investigations have generated literally millions of pages -- their final reports and published testimony alone number in the thousands of pages, and supporting documents are measured in cubic feet. Every year, as researchers write more books, papers, and Internet postings, the amount of information increases. There is no way a single human can read, much less make sense of, all the available material. At first I worried about how I would ever be able to wrap my brain around it all. Then I began to see that for all the speculation, false leads, misinformation, and very interesting but irrelevant material, little of this information is actually evidence. When you focus on the evidence, a great deal of the information on the JFK assassination becomes peripheral. Too many researchers have tried to solve this case backwards, by first identifying a suspect and then coming up with a scenario in which that person is responsible for the assassination. That's not the way murders are solved. Instead, a homicide detective starts at the crime scene and moves out from there, listening to the evidence and following where it leads him. Although there are all sorts of issues over which we might never agree -- like whether JFK was a great president or nothing more than a charming playboy -- the question of who killed him can be answered, even at this late date. The murder of Lee Harvey Oswald deprived us of a trial that might have determined whether he had a role in the crime and/or any possible conspiracy. And all the subsequent controversy has made it difficult to sift through the available information and decide what is fact and what is fiction. Still, I believe it is possible and necessary to solve this case. There are some mysteries in life that can never be solved. But murder is simple. Even this one.