Tuesday, February 28, 2012

                                                  Murder From Within—A 37 Year Wait
     
                                                             John Delane Williams

Murder Within:  Lyndon Johnson’s Plot against President Kennedy, by Fred T. Newcomb and Perry Adams [1] is a book that had been essentially  self-suppressed for 37 years. The book was originally written in 1974 and 100 copies printed, with a prominent “NOT FOR SALE” stamped at the beginning of the book.
          That disclaimer would be even more appropriate now, as the book is the result of seeing things, in many cases, that didn’t happen.
          In 1974, all 100 copies were sent to prominent Senators, Congressmen, FBI personnel and other law enforcement agencies with the purpose of reopening the JFK case.  Apparently several copies were made by xeroxing one of the copies and selling them illegally in Canada for $30. Newcomb and Perry did try to get the book published but three different publishers chose to back out of publishing the book at the last minute—perhaps because of the kinds of allegations that doomed “The Men Who Killed Kennedy.”
          Then the book was put on hold. Perry Adams died, but his widow, Bonnie Adams, and Fred Newcomb’s children took up the torch to bring the book to publication.  The book was finally published in November, 2011 by Author House, a self-publishing firm.  In the 37-year interim much of the material has since been covered by a variety of authors.  Much has also been dismissed. 

A 2011 modification

      The new Forward, written by the authors’ children contains a rather intriguing piece about the Bethesda autopsy. Tyler Newcomb found an Assassination Record Review Board’s (ARRB) online file titled “Janie Taylor”.  Taylor had worked in 1963 as a biologist at The National Institute of Health, across the street from where the JFK autopsy was performed. An African-American man, Clarence Israel (now deceased) told Taylor that two African-American orderlies had been present in the autopsy room. When JFK’s body arrived, many persons were removed from the room; the two orderlies remained. “( T)he doctor performed some type of mutilation to the three bullet punctures in the head area. The doctor was working at a very hurried pace, and was done in a few minutes, at which point he left the autopsy room.” [2]

The Planning of the Motorcade in Dallas

John Connally wanted the luncheon planned at the Trade Mart, which seated 1500, rather than the Women’s Building, which seated 4000. The Women’s Building was preferred by Jerry Bruno, JFK’s advance man from the Democratic National Committee. The Women’s Building site was considered much better, security-wise, and it would allow attendance by a larger cross-section of citizens; the smaller venue at the Trade Mart was said to likely be attended by those who reflected the conservative wing of the Texas Democratic Party. Connally was adamant about the Trade Mart site. [3] The Trade Mart site would require going through Dealey Plaza, the Women’s Building would not. Connally, of course, was able to get the motorcade through Dealey Plaza, going by the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was employed and in the building at the time of the motorcade.

Security Stripping

“Security stripping”, within the JFK critical community, has become a term used to describe the considerably slackened protection afforded President Kennedy in Dallas on 11/22/1963. [4] Newcomb and Adams address some of that security stripping. In their version, it was in the early evening on the eve of the Dallas motorcade, the Secret Service changed the plan of having motorcycle officers ride beside the Presidential limousine. They would instead ride behind the limousine; two of the officers assigned to ride abreast the limousine were re-assigned further back in the parade. The parade assignments also placed Admiral Burkley, President Kennedy’s personal physician, near the rear of the parade, 15 positions behind the Presidential limousine. This placement effectively kept Burkley from access to President Kennedy in case of an emergency. The White House Press Corps just preceded Admiral Burkley’s bus, making their recording of the parade impossible. Buildings and underpasses along the route were supposed to be neutralized—a wholly incorrect assertion, as the SS never had the manpower to deal with buildings.  James Altgens, an AP photographer in the Dallas bureau, had wished to photograph the motorcade from the overpass overlooking Dealey Plaza. Altgens was not allowed to stay on the overpass. He noted that there were 17 people on the overpass at the time of the motorcade; he took a photograph showing nine of those onlookers. [5]

An Overstated Conclusion

Just as the Warren Commission and its defenders (notably Bugliosi [6]) have overstated the case against Lee Harvey Oswald, so also do Newcomb and Perry overstate the case against the person they accuse of being the assassin, William Greer, the Secret Service agent who was also the driver of the Presidential limousine in the motorcade in Dallas. What evidence do they have of Greer shooting? They theorize that as the limousine neared the kill zone, a Secret Service agent in the limousine raised President Kennedy’s seat almost a foot, with a push button mechanism in the limousine, used to put the President in a more prominent view in parades. The push-button mechanism had been described in the New York Times on June 15, 1961. [7]   The Vice-Presidential car, which followed the Secret Service car behind the Presidential limousine, had slowed so it was then half a block behind the Presidential Secret Service car. Directly behind the Vice-Presidential car was a follow-up Secret Service car. A Secret Service agent in that car, Warren W. Taylor, opened his door, extended his arm, and, according to Newcomb & Adams, fired a gun into the air. A photograph taken by James Altgens, taken about three seconds after the first (decoy) shot, after the follow-up car turned onto Elm Street, showed the left rear door open (the right rear door was also opened), with Taylor’s hand in the air, apparently holding some object. An amateur photographer, Robert J. Hughes, focused his 8mm camera on the presidential limousine, but also photographed the Vice-Presidential Secret Service follow-up car. Both doors were opened, but no one got in or out. [8] Apparently Taylor was never questioned about his behavior (or at least there appears to be no report). [9] To Newcomb and Adams, the import of this shot was a signal. Again, according to Newcomb & Adams, driver William Greer fired his revolver directly at President Kennedy, striking him in the throat. Even if Greer did draw his revolver, it could be rationalized that such a move might be appropriate for a person sworn to protect the President. But there is no conclusive video or eyewitness evidence that Greer fired his revolver at President Kennedy.  There were witnesses who heard or smelled shots emanating from inside or near the presidential limousine. Officer E.L. Boone stated:  “I heard three shots coming from the vicinity of where the car was.” [10] Motorcycle officer Bobby W. Hargis, directly to the left rear of the presidential limousine, thought the shots were right next to him. [11] Jean Hill thought she recalled at least one shot from the front seat of the limousine. [12] All of this may be suggestive of a shot from the front seat of the limousine, but it could also be construed as an attempt to shoot back at presumed shooters, if indeed any shots came from the front seat. Forensic evidence that a shot at either President Kennedy or Governor Connally came from the front seat would have included investigating Kennedy’s and Connally’s clothes for powder burns. Connally’s clothing was dry cleaned prior to an FBI examination. The FBI did not get Connally’s clothing until April 16, 1964. Congressman Henry Gonzalez had Connally’s clothing in his closet after receiving them from Cliff Carter, an LBJ aide. President Kennedy’s clothing was taken back to Washington by William Greer. According to Newcomb and Adams, Greer had possession of the clothing during the time of the autopsy. Colonel Finck requested the clothing from the FBI, as garments could have proved helpful for the autopsy. Greer claimed that he turned the clothing over to Mr. Bouck of the Secret Security Protective Research on November 23, 1963. Later that day, the clothing was turned over to the FBI. [13]

The Zapruder Film

It is Newcomb and Adams contention that the Zapruder film was altered in an attempt to cover-up the Secret Service’s part in the plot to assassinate President Kennedy. In their words, “A number of copies of the Zapruder film, whose clarity ranged from excellent to poor, including the films and slides at Life magazine and those in the National Archives were made available…” [14] The original Zapruder film was not made available to them. They report a detailed analysis of the available films; numerous splices were noted. For example a great difference exists between Z-152 and Z-153, with a rapid forward lurch, indicating that frames are likely missing. These missing frames would, in theory at least, hide the opening of the doors in the vice-presidential follow-up car, and the hypothesized warning shot by Secret Service agent Warren W. Taylor .They report color variations, likely to have been produced by using different copies to produce a continuous film. They determined that, generally, the limousine traveled 20 feet for every 20 frames. However, between frames 197 and 218, the limousine traveled only 10 feet, meaning the limousine slowed down or stopped in this interval. If a stop occurred, any number of frames might be missing. The authors suggest that retouching was done with the image of the driver (William Greer) between frames 214 and 333. Retouching may have occurred near the freeway sign, obscuring the shot hitting the president in the throat. An exploding halo was, in their opinion, manufactured around the front of President Kennedy’s scalp in Z-313. This halo is only visible in Z-313, but not in subsequent frames. It seems highly unlikely that the huge burst would only exist for 1/18 of a second. Were there truly a burst of the blood halo, it would suggest that several frames were excised after the fatal shot. There were also several alleged film confiscations along Dealey Plaza that day. One particular case involved a TV newsreel person, following in a car behind the presidential motorcade, who said, “If I have on film what I saw through the eye of my camera, I have the complete assassination.”[15] He was then picked up by a Secret Serviceman, who confiscated his film.  No identification of this mystery photographer is provided, and with no SS presence in the plaza, who did the confiscating?

      It should be clear that the extant films would no longer be a feasible timeline. One observation of my own: there is a clear discontinuity between Z-132 and Z-133. In Z-132, the presidential limousine is not yet in view; in Z-133, it has traveled at least 20 feet up
Elm Street
. The entirety of the turn onto
Elm Street
is missing. [16] One other part of the visible evidence that has not been removed is Jacqueline Kennedy’s attempting to exit the car out of the rear of the limousine, only to be intercepted by Clint Hill. What was the cause of her trying to get out of the car? Newcomb & Adams suggest that she was trying to protect herself from their proposed shooter, William Greer. If Greer did in fact have a gun, or some object that could be construed to be a gun in his hand, given what had just happened to her husband, it might have seem rational to get away, given the enormity of the events.  Mrs. Kennedy had no recollection of leaving her seat, so the “escape the assassin” scenario is badly weakened.

Parkland & Bethesda

At both hospitals, Newcomb & Adams honed in on the behavior of the Secret Service. Of particular note is the attempt to stop others from gathering any sort of evidence. An hour after the President’s assassination, a young male was filming the area around the emergency entrance area when the Presidential limousine was parked at Parkland. A Secret Service agent assaulted the boy, taking his camera, ripping out the film, and kicking the unwinding film down the street. [17] The doctors at Parkland lent credence to a shot either in or close by to the limousine. Dr. McClelland said that the wound in President Kennedy’s skull could be expected from a very high velocity missile…with a heavy caliber bullet, such as a .45 pistol fired at close range. [18] Other physicians at Parkland had slightly varying observations. Dr. Perry said the President Kennedy was shot in the front of the head; Drs Perry & Clark said the President was shot from the front. A news conference was held by the doctors at Parkland at on the day of the assassination. The Secret Service was supposed to supply the Warren Commission with media recordings of the press conference. The media recordings of the Dallas doctors’ press conference were not made available to the Commission by the Secret Service. [19]  

Newcomb & Adams made an honest attribution: They were the first to publish the likely altering of President Kennedy’s wounds after his body left Parkland hospital. While their publication [20] preceded David Lifton’s by six years, they acknowledged that the theory originated with Lifton. [21] That theory hypothesized that the alterations took place after leaving Parkland, but before arriving at the Bethesda morgue. [22] More recently, Doug Horne has fleshed out the view that the alterations were performed by Dr. Humes in Bethesda, prior to the autopsy. [23]

The legal facts of President Kennedy’s wounds would be established at the autopsy, not at Parkland Hospital. If President Kennedy’s body was deliberately altered prior to autopsy, then the legal facts would be established from the altered body. No matter how more accurate—or numerical—the descriptions of the wounds by the Parkland doctors might be, the autopsy results took legal precedence. One might argue that the urgency of having the autopsy performed at the Bethesda military facility, performed by younger military physicians under the orders of senior military medical personnel, would lend itself to a different autopsy than might have been performed at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. It also allowed time to alter President Kennedy’s body for the autopsy. The actual final copy of the autopsy report was undated (!), but perhaps written after Drs Humes and Boswell met with their Commanding officer, Rear Admiral Calvin B. Callaway and two Warren Commission lawyers on March 11, 1964—one of the dozen pre-testimony meetings between Arlen Specter and the doctors. The Commission lawyers presented a scenario for the shooting. The autopsy report and the Dr. Humes testimony four days later before the Commission would reflect the scenario described by the Commission lawyers. [24] The clothing of President Kennedy should have been examined at autopsy but was not seen until the day before the autopsy doctors’ testimony—given “together” in a room so there would be no dissent. [25]  

Why Did Oswald go back to the Paines’ Residence on 11/21/1963?

Newcomb and Adams come up with a previously unpublished reason for Lee Harvey Oswald to have gone to the Paines’ residence on 11/21/. Oswald had kept notebooks and manuscripts of his experiences; shortly before 11/22/1963, he took a precautionary step to avoid their confiscation in the events that were likely to follow (but why do this, and leave behind photos of himself and a gun—if Greer did it?) He placed these materials in a brown mailing envelope and addressed it to himself at a non-existent address. Apparently he figured that the envelope would end up at the dead letter office in Dallas. Unfortunately, Oswald failed to put postage on the envelope. On 11/20/1963, the postal delivery person left a notice at the Paine household that postage was due. That evening, Ruth Paine contacted Oswald and told him about the notice left by the post office. When Oswald arrived at the Paines’, he secured the notice and put it with his things. Apparently, he could go to Irving post office, where the parcel was then located, and get it when it would be safe to do so. The Dallas police found the notice on 11/23/1963. The Secret Service was notified, and they went to the Irving post office and removed the contents of the package. The Secret Service interviewed Oswald at the jail, the interview ending just 15 minutes prior to Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald. [26] Unstated is Wesley Frazier’s story that he drove LHO to the Paine house on the afternoon of 11/21, and that LHO would have had trouble getting there if called by Mrs. Paine later.  The story is clever, but as empty as the dead letter.

So Why the Two Unsupported Assertions?

        First, not a scintilla of evidence is offered to support the idea that Lyndon Johnson had a plot to assassinate John Kennedy—although he had means and motive, and in Dallas, opportunity.  Frankly, I can’t imagine any serious plotters ever allowing Johnson more than a smattering of information, such as, when you get in office rescind Kennedy’s plan to draw down forces in Vietnam. Also, help make sure no local investigations take place, and most assuredly, have the autopsy done in DC at a military installation. While he became president because of JFK’s assassination, it is no proof that he developed a plot to accomplish it. And the assertion that William Greer was the killer is, at best, a conjecture. Even if Greer had a gun in his hand (which has not been established), such an action would not have been totally inappropriate, except that immediately speeding up the limousine to get out of firing range would have been far more appropriate. Perhaps the authors reasoned that a better case could be made for Greer rather than Oswald, as the Warren Commission concluded, so why not? The “why not?” is that to lower ourselves to the standards of the Warren Commission is impermissible. Greer, by the way, was replaced as the limousine driver by Lyndon Johnson, although virtually all of JFK’s close agents were under scrutiny. Greer took a disability pension from the Secret Service in 1966.

My own conjectures on William Greer and Lyndon Johnson are quite different than those expressed by Newcomb & Adams. In regard to Greer, he seemed to have no more than adequate skills as a chauffeur, and should not have been driving in the Dallas motorcade. He was said to have almost hit the curb on the
Elm Street
side as he turned onto
Elm Street
. Perhaps the Secret Service wanted to remove this ineptitude from the Zapruder tape. As to the slowing down near Z-313, he should have immediately sped up to reduce the chance of shots hitting persons in the limousine. Removing this slowing down/stopping may have been protecting the Secret Service from exposure of incompetence. [27] What did Greer gain by his actions of that day? Nothing at all; his career in the Secret Service was likely in shambles; except for taking Lyndon Johnson to church on 11/24/1963, [28] he never chauffeured for a President again. The Secret Service fared much better. The Treasury Department kept charge of the SS, although Hoover lusted after it, and used its Dallas failure as a reason. [29] At the time of President Kennedy’s death, the number of Secret Service agents was less than 400. [30] In fiscal year 2010, the number of secret service agents had increased to 3543. [31]

      As to Johnson, clearly, he was in charge of a cover-up and the Warren Commission’s handling of the inquiry regarding the assassination. He probably had some pre-knowledge of the assassination, given his alleged outburst to Madeleine Brown at the Murchison party on the eve of the assassination, “After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again-that’s no threat-that’s a promise.” [32] Then, as the Vice-Presidential car turned onto
Elm Street
, Johnson ducked to the floor BEFORE any shots were fired. And of course, there was the long unidentified fingerprint on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository that turned out to belong to Malcolm Wallace, an LBJ henchman [33]. Still, I can’t imagine that the conspirators would entrust any information to LBJ, other than on a need to know basis.  

Had the authors been more circumspect in regard to their treatment of William Greer and LBJ, this book would likely have been accepted to a much higher degree. Still, it is worthy of being read for a perspective on a book ahead of its time when it was first written. It would have been, in 1974, an ideal challenge for researchers to defend or debunk.  In 2011—2012, “debunk” is mandatory.

Notes:
1.      Newcomb, F.T. & Adams, P. (2011). Murder from Within: Lyndon Johnson’s Plot against President Kennedy. Bloomington, IN: Author House.
2.      Montague, D.  Call Report:  Janie Taylor. Created 11/24/1995, ARRB Archives.              
3.      See also Horne, D.P. (2009). Inside the Assassinations Record Review Board: The U.S. Governments Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK. Volume V. Lexington, KY: Author D.P.
4.      In my personal experience, I attended a JFK speech at a football stadium in Pueblo, Colorado on August 17, 1962. The speech was, in part, recognizing the signing of legislative authority for the Frying Pan-Arkansas water diversion project in Colorado. The crowd was estimated at 20,000. In the aisles there were 42 state patrolmen equipped with rifles (one of the patrolmen was my brother). Police surrounded the stadium. Additional police and secret service personnel were near the president and near the podium as well as throughout the field. A large number of state patrolmen and local police accompanied the presidential limousine for the five miles from the airport. All of this protection was provided in a city that overwhelmingly voted for Kennedy in the 1960 election, and in a city where John Kennedy was truly loved. 
5.      Newcomb & Adams, p. 36.
6.      Bugliosi, V. (2007). Reclaiming History. New York: Norton.
7.       Newcomb & Adams, p. 71, note 6.
8.      Ibid. p. 50 & p. 72, note 16.  Lem Johns, however, did exit the vehicle.
9.      Walt Brown commented that the reason he doors were open was because it was a closed vehicle, and the doors were open throughout the motorcade. e-mail, 2/2/2012.
10.   Newcomb and Adams, p. 56 & p. 72, note 51a. Boone, however, was on
Main Street
and such an assessment is meaningless.
11.  Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. VI, p. 294.                                                                    
12.  Newcomb & Adams, p. 56.
13.  Ibid. p.180.
14.   Ibid. p. 92.
15.  Ibid. p. 106. Also, ABC News, Tom O’Brian, ABC News Director, Nov. 23, 1963. MD:
16.  See Image of the Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film. (1998). MPI Home Video.
17.  Newcomb & Adams, p. 127.
18.  Ibid. p. 129.
19.  Ibid. p.130.
20.  Newcomb, F.T. & Adams, P. (1975). Did Someone Alter the Medical Evidence? Skeptic Magazine, Issue #9, Sept-Oct, 24 pages.
21.  Newcomb & Adams, (2011), p. 193.
22.  Lifton, D.S. (1980). Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. New York: MacMillan.
23.  Horne, pp. 686-689.           
24.  Newcomb & Adams, (2011) p. 179.
25.  Ibid. p. 180.
26.  Ibid. pp. 238-241.
27.  Brown, W.  (1995).Treachery in Dallas. New York: Carroll & Graf. Walt Brown concluded that those who interpreted the Zapruder film showed William Greer shooting the president had erred. Rather, what was shown was a bullet doing damage to the windshield, with shards of glass resulting. (p. 60). For this, Walt was sued by those who didn’t share his view (but not including Newcomb & Adams). Litigation went on for seven years, almost getting to the Supreme Court. (e-mail, 2/2/2012).
28.  Ibid. p. 48.
29.   Newcomb & Adams,  pp. 276-277.
30.  New York Times Sept. 27, 1964, p. 1.
31.  United States Secret Service Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report. (2011). Washington: Dept of Homeland Security. Available at //http:secretservice.gov.
32.  Brown, M.D. (1997). Texas in the Morning. Baltimore: The Conservatory Press, p. 166.
33.  Brown, W. (1998).TSBD shooter identified. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 3,3, pp 1-4.

 Published in JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, (2012). 17, 3, 14-24.
   

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