Posner: Oswald Acted Alone

Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, believes Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President John F. Kennedy. He says every conspiracy theory fails to connect Oswald to the conspirators.

In addition, he says a fatal flaw to many conspiracy theories, especially those that revolve around the medical evidence, is the vast number of people that would have had to be involved in such a conspiracy — and that was something only Hollywood could dream up.

The following is an excerpt of ABCNEWS' interview with Posner:

ABCNEWS: Who killed John F. Kennedy, and was there more than one person involved?

Gerald Posner: The overwhelming evidence, credible evidence, is that one person and one person alone killed John F. Kennedy and that's Lee Harvey Oswald. No other assassins at Dealey Plaza that day. No extra shooters. No one else shooting from the grassy knoll, or from another building. Just Lee Harvey Oswald, who with one gun, ended the life of that president.

I think that one of the things the American public misses here is they have no concept of why Oswald would have killed Kennedy. It was his own bit of anarchist political philosophy. He's not a true communist. The Lee Harvey Oswald that I came to understand could have been on the 6th floor of a building in downtown Moscow shooting Nikita Khrushchev. He wanted to throw a cog in the machinery of government.

ABCNEWS: What are the leading conspiracy theories?

Posner: The conspiracy theories on the Kennedy assassination have changed over time. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, the leading theories were that it had been done either by the KGB and the Soviets, or maybe by Castro. It was a communist plot. That Oswald, an obvious communist, had been used by them to kill the president. Over time, that was dropped completely, and it became more of a U.S. must have done it. Oswald was really a patsy set up to look like a communist, so it was the FBI — J. Edgar Hoover hated Kennedy terribly. The CIA, they were mad, because Kennedy was about to take them apart. Could have been the military industrial complex, since Kennedy was going to take us out of Vietnam, or so goes the theory. Then it evolved into the Mafia eventually.

I think that one of the driving factors behind the conspiracy theories on the John Kennedy assassination is the belief that some certain people wanted Kennedy dead. I have no doubt, for instance, that the mob hated the Kennedy brothers — both Robert and John. I have little doubt that individuals in the CIA also hated the Kennedys. And I also believe that there were people in the U.S. who celebrated Kennedy's death. Maybe some of them in the U.S. government, that said, "You know, that no good SOB had it coming to him."

People assume that since a certain group hated Kennedy and Oswald killed him, that Oswald must have been acting on behalf of those enemies that hated him. That's where I could never find the link. My challenge to all of the researchers and those who believe there's a conspiracy in this death, is you must tie in Lee Harvey Oswald, a person that I'm convinced is the only shooter at Dealey Plaza, to the conspirators. That's where every conspiracy fails.

ABCNEWS: Is there any evidence that the Secret Service somehow compromised the president's safety?

Posner: There is absolutely no evidence that I found of the Secret Service having been compromised on Nov. 22, 1963. I think that one of the mistakes the American public makes today is that we judge pre-Nov. 22, 1963, presidential security by what we expect it to be after Kennedy's assassination. We expect to go to a site and see Secret Service scouring buildings and looking up at windows. We expect to see sharpshooters on top of rooftops. We expect today, post-9/11, for individuals to be checking under manhole covers and looking for a bomb. The security that applies to presidents today is, in part, a result of the assassination that took place 40 years ago. We've learned lessons. There were, in fact, no Secret Service scouring the buildings and looking up at the top. Almost impossible to imagine that happening today. They followed their rules. Their rules just turned out to be, in retrospect, poor.

ABCNEWS: How important is the shooting of Officer J.D. Tippit in understanding the assassination of President Kennedy?

Posner: I believe that the shooting of Officer Tippit shortly after the assassination of the president is they key to understanding that Lee Harvey Oswald was without question involved in the assassination. Oswald is a person of great political interest. He is involved in politics. He talks about Marxism. He defected to the Soviet Union. And he gets the word that the president has been shot, and according to what he tells the police, he says, "Gee, that must mean we're getting off work early. I can go home for the day." The last person in Dallas who would have gone home for the day after learning that the president had been shot outside the place that he worked would have been Oswald. He would have been hanging around and asking questions and finding out if the president was alive or dead and what had taken place.

Instead, he gets on a bus that's a little slow. He's very tightfisted, doesn't spend money very easy. [He] takes a taxi. That's remarkable. Goes back to the place that he's staying at. What does he do? What anybody does after the president's been shot — he grabs a pistol.

Then he walks down the road and in the middle of that is stopped by a policeman who has a general description of the shooter. Now Oswald, the patsy, doesn't know anything. Nothing's wrong, but he decides he better shoot this policeman just for the hell of it. So he shoots J. D. Tippit dead on the spot and then keeps going. The killing of Tippit is the evidence for those who refuse to acknowledge it, that this man is up to his eyeballs in the assassination of the president. There is no question of Oswald's guilt in this case when you look at his murder of Tippit so shortly after the murder of Kennedy.

ABCNEWS: In custody, Oswald consistently denied shooting the president. How do you understand that?

Posner: I'm not surprised that Lee Oswald denies his guilt in killing the president that weekend in Dallas. I don't think he would have admitted it a week later or a month later, or a year later. He was in the perfect position that he wanted to be in all the time. Finally, at the age of 24, Lee Harvey Oswald had arrived. All the cameras were around and he was the buzz of activity. He was the object of everybody's questions. And he was able to stand there and have the great fun of saying "Not me. You've got the wrong person. I'm just the patsy," and put everybody through the ultimate game.

Jack Ruby Wasn’t Sent to Silence Oswald

ABCNEWS: So many Americans believe that Jack Ruby was ordered to silence Oswald. Why don't you?

Posner: If Jack Ruby were sent to silence Oswald, he would have done it at his first possible opportunity. That was Friday night, when he was at the jail, and Oswald was taken out for a midnight press conference. Jack makes no attempt, even though Oswald walked feet away from him. Jack, given the biggest assignment of his life decides, "I'm not in the mood. You know what? I could shoot Oswald tonight. I'll wait a day or so."

Saturday comes, he's back down at police headquarters. Oswald comes out, Jack's still not in the mood, obviously. Saturday, he would have made the effort to silence Oswald. Again, Jack is there. Oswald's there. No attempt made.

On Sunday, he's not there waiting for Oswald. He's not stalking the prison waiting for Oswald to be moved. He's going downtown, in Dallas, to send a money gram to a stripper that's woken him up a couple of hours before. He's in no rush, gets there with only a minute to spare. He makes it down to the bottom of the case, where Oswald leaves, just in time to be able to pull his gun out. A planned assassination and silencing? Far from it. Jack Ruby is killing Oswald for his own demented purposes, but not because he's part of a plot.

President’s Autopsy

ABCNEWS: How would you describe the president's autopsy, and could there have been, as so many people allege, an orchestrated attempt to disguise or alter the president's wounds?

Posner: The autopsy of Jack Kennedy was terrible. Considering that this was the autopsy of the president of the United States, you would have thought that the best medical examiners, and forensics doctors in the country were going to be at that table, doing the autopsy. Instead, they were doctors not versed in bullet wounds, with Robert Kennedy just upstairs in the very hospital, calling downstairs and saying "when are you finishing?" Pushing them along a little too quickly.

There were mistakes made in the location of the wounds, in the way that notes were recorded, in the quality of the pictures taken, and the poor quality of the autopsy of President Kennedy has set the ground work for much conspiracy speculation over the years.

However, there is no evidence from that autopsy, in terms of the X-rays and the photographs that were taken, that contradicts the bullet wounds that came from the rear, from a shooter firing, from behind the president that day in Dealey Plaza — the very bullet wounds that we see inflicted on the president in the [Abraham] Zapruder film, that then are confirmed in the autopsy photographs and X-rays. While the autopsy itself is of poor quality, its fundamental evidence confirms the shooting from behind.

A fatal flaw to many conspiracy theories, especially those that revolve around the medical evidence and the autopsy, is the number of people that would have had to be involved in such a conspiracy — not dozens, but literally hundreds. And one of the conspirators would have to be possibly [first lady] Jackie Kennedy, since she was asked on the flight back to Washington what hospital [she wanted] the president to go to for the autopsy. And she said, "Jack was a Navy man, let's go to Bethesda." So either she knew to pick Bethesda, or you had teams of fake autopsy doctors, ready to do the conspiracy at any number of hospitals in the Washington area that she might have selected. I find that's possible in Hollywood, but not in real life.

Castro Involvement?

ABCNEWS: In the program, one of Lyndon Johnson's closest advisers, Joseph Califano, reports that President Johnson believed that Castro was behind the Kennedy assassination. Why do you disagree?

Posner: Lyndon Johnson makes the mistake that many Americans do. He finds somebody who has a reason to want Kennedy dead, in this case, Fidel Castro, and assumes that Castro was involved. But, because of Oswald's pro-Castro involvement, because of the fact that the month before the assassination Oswald was in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban Embassy, asking to go to Havana, it gives some plausibility to the idea he was acting on behalf of Cuba.

I must say that it's very unlikely that the longest term surviving ruler in the world today, the man who was running Cuba at the time that Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States, has done so by making such fundamental great gambles as killing the president of the country next door to him, who could eliminate and flatten his entire island in a split second, and do so by relying on somebody as unstable as a 24-year-old sociopath like Lee Harvey Oswald.

Castro is no one's fool. If he had selected someone to shoot the president of the United States, the last thing that that individual would have is a history of being a pro-Castro supporter.

ABCNEWS: Can we ever be 100 percent certain of what happened in the Kennedy assassination?

Posner: If the American public wants 100 percent certainty on who killed JFK, they're never going to come to a conclusion on this case. The best you can do is examine the credible evidence, and reach a conclusion about what likely happened on that day in Dallas 40 years ago. The overwhelming evidence is that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Jack Kennedy for his own reasons, without any conspiracy being involved.

But, anybody looking for 100 percent certainty on that answer, on any controversial area of history, is just not going to find it. The Kennedy assassination is no different.

Gerald Posner is an investigative journalist who is also a trained attorney. He is the author of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1993), and Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998). His most recent book is Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11 (2003).