Electronic Assassinations Newsletter
With the publication of Case Closed, (1) at least one longstanding mystery about the Kennedy assassination has been cleared up. For nearly three decades we have wondered how Lee Harvey Oswald, a man of questionable marksmanship ability and using a rifle of questionable killing capacity, could have delivered those two deadly shots to the bodies of Kennedy and Connally at great speed and with a tree-obstructed view for one of the shots. As featured in Posner's exerpt from the book in U.S. News and World Report (2), it appears that Oswald had a deadly smirk. Translated, this means that looks can kill and Oswald could have left the damned Mannlicher-Carcano in Ruth Paine's garage and merely aimed his deadly face toward the President. Two looks, two hits!
But, wait a minute, how do we know that Oswald possesed this weapon, the deadly smirk? Gerald Posner, researcher extraordinaire, went back, he said, and scrupulously reindexed the Warren Report's 26 volumes, thereby correcting the errors that various of the "buffs" have made over the years. On the first 2 1/2 pages, in his scrupulous account of Oswald's arrest, Posner mentions the smirk three times: as Oswald was being hauled out of the theatre, in the police cruiser as a policeman suggested he might "burn" for killing a cop, and once again when detective Gus Rose suppposedly asked him, "which one are you?" (Oswald or Hidell).
Well, let's look at Posner's scrupulous documentation, one smirk at a time. Smirk #1 is attributed to Bob Carroll, who drove the squad car to headquarters with Oswald under arrest. Carroll mentions nothing about Oswald's facial expression and, in fact, contradicts Posner's claim that the smirk accompanied Oswald's yellling "I protest this police brutality" to a crowd outside who were yelling "kill him." Carroll said this Oswald protest occurred in the theatre: "after we come out of the theatre - I couldn't hear, you know, if he said anything I couldn't actually hear it." (3) So much for smirk #1.
Smirk #2 relies on the testimony of officer C. T. Walker and Posner manages several misrepresentations of Walker's testimony in one short paragraph. (4) First of all, Walker says nothing about Oswald's facial expression. But there is more. Posner says: "Again he (Oswald) declared 'I know my rights' and then asked 'what is this all about?' " By asserting his rights before he asks the nature of the accusation, it sounds, does it not, that Oswald knew perfectly well what it was "all about?" But Walker testified: "Oswald said 'what is this all about'? He was relating this all the time. He said 'I know my rights.' " The "rights" Oswald was asserting seemed to be the right to know what it was "all about," as the police had apparently failed to tell him, even though "he was relating this all the time." Posner also adds another undocumented Oswald facial expression in this paragraph: that Oswald "didn't look surprised" when the police finally told him he was a suspect in a policeman's murder. What did Walker say where Posner interjected "he didn't look surprised?" Walker: "And nobody said nothing."
The final smirk occured when detective Rose "suddenly" entered a room where Oswald was awaiting interrogation and, with Oswald's billfold in hand, demanded to know whether he was really Oswald or Hidell.
Posner's meticulous documentation fails him here, as he gives no reference to support smirk #3. Rose does describe the incident in his testimony, (5) but it doesn't exactly match Posner's description. For one thing, Rose said nothing about Oswald's facial expression or his demeanor - and says that, before he saw the contents of the billfold, he asked Oswald who he was and he said "Hidell." Only later, when he looked at the billfold and found two identification cards did the exchange about Oswald/Hidell take place. Of course we have known for a long time that the DPD's claim of "finding" Hidell identification on Oswald is contradicted by the failure of any of these officers to give any contemporaneous report of finding such identification. (6) But that is another story: the story of Posner's failure to consider the lines of evidence that contradict the official version of the assassination. All I've tried to do above is to take about 800 of the first words of Case Closed to examine whether we can trust the author's "scrupulous" documentation from the 26 volumes. It has taken me about this many words to raise these questions and I haven't even dealt with all the evidential problems with these 2 1/2 pages.
What I am suggesting is that a thorough critical review of Case Closed would require something like the 607 pages of the book itself. As I do not have that much space in THE FOURTH DECADE, I will mention a couple of areas in which Posner has apparently invented elements other than the smirks in order to answer all the questions and "close the case."
One of these concerns the Edwin A. Walker shooting in April of 1963. In his zeal to close the case on Oswald as the perpetrator of that attempted assassination, Posner sidesteps the whole critical literature, relying on Marina Oswald's testimony as filtered through the government agents who were controlling her and, later, through her "biographer," Priscilla McMillan. (7) He opens his chapter on the Walker shooting inauspiciously by saying that the name Hidell, in which Oswald's .38 calibre Smith & Wesson was ordered, was "the third authorized name to receive mail at the post office box, the others being Marina and Lee." (8) If this meticulous indexer had really done his homework, he would have noticed that the authorization form for the Dallas post office box had been destroyed and that Hidell appeared as an authorized person to receive mail on Oswald's New Orleans post office box (9) - a convenient invention for closing a case.
Posner apparently hopes to close still further the case against Oswald in the Walker shooting by creating an embellished account of George DeMohrenschildt's "influence" over Oswald in regard to General Walker. (10) To that end, Posner creates a scenario of Oswald's conversation, at a February 13 party at DeMohrenschildt's home, with a "young German geologist, Volkmar Schmidt." "When DeMohrenschildt drove the Oswalds home from the party, Lee expressed astonishment at meeting a fascist. DeMohrenschildt gave him a lecture about the dangers posed by people like Schmidt and other right-wing fanatics." There is no documentation from DeMohrenschildt's testimony on this subject, only a statement attributed to "FBI file Volkmar Schmidt," that Oswald "appeared to be a violent person."
Since Posner referenced the 26 volumes so scrupulously, one might have thought he would have checked the points of cross-reference for DeMohrenschildt and Schmidt. When I did this cross-reference, I came up with a single entry from DeMohrenschildt's 119 pages of testimony. When asked if he recalled Schmidt, DeMohrenschildt said "Yes, yes, definitely. He is German, very intelligent, young Ph.D. in sociology who also works at the same laboratory as Everett Glover." (11) Not a word to suggest his antipathy to Schmidt as a "fascist."
"Placing" Oswald on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting has always been an essential element in closing the case against Oswald as the assassin. Here again Posner is able to invent evidence where it does not exist in the record. For just one example, on p. 225: "At 11:40 one of the workers, Bonnie Ray Williams, spotted Oswald on the east side of that floor, near the windows overlooking Dealey Plaza." The reference for this is a Williams statement to the FBI in which Williams said: "Oswald was on the sixth floor on the east side of the building." (12) Posner added "near the windows overlooking Dealey Plaza." In his scrupulous indexing of the 26 volumes, Posner must surely have indexed a Warren Commission scene in which Williams was asked to describe and mark on a diagram exactly where he saw Oswald at that time. Williams drew an O on Commission Exhibit 483 (13) and Counsel Joseph Ball correctly described the location as " on the north side of the floor near the east elevator," (14) obviously nowhere near the place described by Posner.
With these and countless other demonstrations of his prowess as an assassination researcher, Posner is ready near the end of the book to take on a motley crew of assassination "buffs." (15) No one of the big name critics is spared Posner's awful chastisement for bias and prejudice. Posner takes a statement attributed to Josiah Thompson - that the "assassination becomes like a religious event" to the "obsessed" critics - to furnish a title for his chapter on the assassination critics. He borrows Walter Cronkite's characterization of Mark Lane as "lifting remarks out of context to support his theories." (16) And so it goes. My own favorite pasage is when, on page 419, Posner takes on Sylvia Meagher with as many misrepresentations and defamations per square inch as I have ever seen in print. Meagher's objectivity was spoiled by the fact that she "was a committed leftist, and her politics are clear throughout the book (Accessories After The Fact). (Thank you, Gerald Posner, I never noticed that in my half-dozen readings of Accessories.) She "spoke derisively of the forces behind the assassination including 'American Nazi thugs'." (This phrase is not actually used at the place in the Foreword to Accesssories cited by Posner. It is found on p. xxiv when Meagher is commenting on the after effects of the unsolved assassination crime in which "it was possible for American Nazi thugs to assault peaceable citizens assembled at a public meeting in Dallas at Christmas, 1965." This was a force behind the assassination?
The last straw for me in this buff-bashing comes on the same page when Posner suggests that Meagher's prejudice is reflected in her Subject Index to the 26 volumes, which "underplays evidence that incriminates Oswald but meticulously lists references that tend to exonerate him or raise doubts." In support of this charge, Posner notes that there are only 23 citations in the Meagher index under the heading of "Oswald's potential for violence," while Posner's own card index shows "more than fifty citations just in the fifteen volumes of testimony." Well, the Meagher index is not perfect, but I've found that it is simply not detailed enough on almost any subject - including, I am sure, Oswalds' "potential for violence," since a lot of Oswald's associates did, rightly or wrongly, comment on his "violent" tendencies. But many others expressed incredulity that the "mild-mannered" Oswald whom they knew would have committed any act like the assassination. You would never know this, of course, from reading Case Closed which - give Posner credit - is scrupulously documented for what seems every instance of anyone suggesting the violence propensity of Oswald. In any case, I would love to see the Posner index which is, by implication, so much more thorough and objective than the Meagher one. He just happened to miss a few little details of the sort I have reviewed above.
In closing, I might offer an urgent suggestion to the author of Case Closed. As you are going about the country garnering the praise of those in the political, academic, and journalistic establishments who have been hoping to close the case for the last thirty years, look in a mirror once in a while to see that your smile is on straight. Otherwise some misguided buff might think you are carrying a dangerous smirk to be used in the character assassination of folks like Sylvia Odio, Adrian Alba, Delphine Roberts, Anthony Summers, Sylvia Meagher and, yes, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Notes: 1. Gerald Posner, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, New York, Random House, 1993. 2. "Special Report: The Man with a Deadly Smirk," U.S. News and World Report Aug. 30-Sept. 6, 1993, p. 62-98. 3. Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, Vol. 7 p. 21 Reference to this source cited hereafter in format 7H21. 4. 7H40. 5. 7H228. 6. Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, New York Random House, 1976 p. 185-189. 7. Posner, Case Closed, Chapter 6. 8. Posner, Case Closed, p. 98. 9. 7H527. 10. Posner, Case Closed, p. 99. 11. 9H256. Although Posner did not reference McMillans' Lee and Marina on this point, (as he did endlessly throughout his book), he might well have been relying on McMillans' dubious account of this episode. Using only 9H256 of the Warren Report, her interviews with Marina and an unspecified "FBI file on Schmidt in the National Archives" as sources. McMillan contrives a scenario in which Oswald spends most of the evening talking about Schmidt the "fascist" on the way home. I say contrived because, while DeMohrenschildt does call Schmidt Messer Schmidt in the cited testimony, there is nothing at all to support her claim that "George teased him for being a rabid reactionary;" because Marina could not understand the English language in which Lee and George discussed "politics" (though McMillan has DeMohrenschildt undertaking some of this conversation in Russian for no accountable reason); and because of the suspiciously vague Schmidt reference. See Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Marina and Lee New York, Bantam Books, 1977, p. 344, 345. Another spinner of Oswald "Legends," Edward J. Epstein, based on an interview with Schmidt, reports that it was Schmidt who planted in Oswald's mind connection between the Walker and Hitler. Schmidt also elevated himself to the key role in a second party 9 days later at which the Oswalds met Ruth Paine. Held in the home he shared with Everett Grover, Schmidt told Epstein that he decided to arrange a small party to help bring Oswald "out of his shell" (Edward Epstein, Legend, p. 203-205.) This version of Oswald/Schmidt is described in Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much, New York, Carroll and Graf, 1992, p. 310. 12. 22H681. 13. 17H201. 14. 3H166. 15. Posner, Case Closed, Chapter 17. 16. Posner, Case Closed, p. 415.