The Kennedy Assassination
Normally I would not read a long piece in a Philadelphia paper online about a U.S. senator who switched parties (for the second time) in an attempt to hold a seat he has had for 30 years. But this senator happened to be Arlen Specter. I wanted to see if there was any reference to his work on the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There was.
The article said Specter was the man who came up with the single-bullet theory, also known as the Magic Bullet, which the Warren Commission concluded went through JFK’s body and then wounded Texas Gov. John Connally. It said, accurately, that Specter has endured ridicule over the years for developing that theory, without which the lone assassin conclusion could not be sustained. Then the writer added, inaccurately, that the theory has never been refuted, and that tests had shown it was theoretically possible.
That is nonsense. The theory was first vigorously refuted way back in 1967, in Philadelphia of all places, when Gaeton Fonzi of Philadelphia magazine interviewed Specter about his work for the Warren Commission. At the time, very few people had even read the Warren Commission report, and Specter was flushed with success when papers such as the New York Times praised the commission’s work, even though nobody at the Times had even read the 26 volumes of evidence. But Fonzi had been prepped by someone who had carefully studied the evidence. Specter did not expect to be questioned in detail about JFK’s wounds. Fonzi liked and respected Specter, but to his amazement, a surprised Specter stumbled all over the place trying to explain the unexplainable – how the holes in Kennedy’s shirt did not match the wounds, and even if they did, how a bullet that appeared to never have been fired left more fragments in Connally’s body than could have been possible from an almost pristine bullet.
Fonzi had expected Specter, normally smooth, to explain away the inconsistencies, and was stunned at his inability to do so. Fonzi reported as much in Philadelphia magazine. That incident later appeared in this magazine in 1980, in a piece that eventually became the 1994 book The Last Investigation. It was re-published in an updated form two years ago. I wrote the foreword for what is now regarded as an iconic work, the first book to link Lee Harvey Oswald to our CIA. That connection occurred right here in South Florida when Fonzi began delving into the CIA’s support for anti-Castro Cubans. Various books have cited Fonzi’s investigative work, and almost all of them have refuted the single-bullet theory.
Now, Arlen Specter is a darn smart man, and was an experienced prosecutor at the time of the Warren Commission. I have long found it hard to believe he believed his own theory, and the only explanation for the theory seems to be that Specter’s charge was not to solve a murder, but to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. We now know that the Warren Commission had an agenda to put the case to rest. It ignored much evidence, especially the eyewitness accounts of many people who said the fatal shots came from the grassy knoll, indicating more than one shooter. There was dissention on the commission, notably from Sen. Richard Brevard Russell Jr. of Georgia, who did not buy the single-bullet idea. That, however was not made public at the time.
Over the years, researchers have built on each other’s books, and almost all rely on Fonzi’s landmark work. It recent years David Talbot in Brothers revealed that Robert Kennedy immediately suspected a government conspiracy. He summoned federal marshals for his own protection and one of his first calls was to the CIA director. He quietly followed events such as the Garrison trial in New Orleans. He felt powerless, even as attorney general, for he knew the widespread animosity toward his brother and him among high government officials, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who resented Kennedy’s failure to invade Cuba and attempts to end the Cold War. The Hawks thought only nuclear weapons could do that.
Last year, JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass did a brilliant job of packaging all the research of the last 45 years. He had the advantage of information supplied by the release of formerly classified documents, most of them discovered by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley. They point to the long-held suspicion that Lee Harvey Oswald was an intelligence asset, the sinister link that Fonzi first discovered in the 1970s. It has bothered me for years that with rare exceptions such as Morley, the mainstream press has failed in its responsibility to inform the public on the crime of the last century. The Arlen Specter article is just the most recent example.
Ironically, the same year that Specter entered the U.S. Senate (1980), another Pennsylvanian exited it. He was Richard Schweiker, and he’s still around. He was the man who in 1975 recalled Gaeton Fonzi’s Philadelphia magazine article. He had re-opened an investigation into the death of President Kennedy and was convinced Oswald had CIA connections. He hired Fonzi to try to prove it. The rest is history.