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Miller Center Fellow Promotes Official JFK Assassination Myths While Blaming The Public For Doubting Them – Carmine Savastano

During the nearly sixty years that has passed since the grim events in Dealey Plaza and following countless public and official speculations, finding a reasonable perspective supported by significant evidence using government documents has been elusive. Too often the American public is subjected to highly biased opinions which present the enduring view of many officials and academics that Lee Harvey Oswald alone was responsible for the death of President John F. Kennedy. He is branded a “lunatic,” or when pressed some officials even attempted to speculate regarding hypothetical plots by Communist enemy states using Oswald. This began quickly after the talk of a single gunman often proved deficient if compared to necessary evidence.

While certainly some evidence exists that can be offered, which Oswald’s accusers might craft a circumstantial case, as the President’s (Warren) Commission did, several investigating government committees held themselves to lesser civil legal standards and not criminal ones. One later congressional investigation conducted by the US House Select Committee on Assassinations, during the 1970’s, actually decided a conspiracy was responsible for John F. Kennedy’s death. These are just some of many problems with official and academic claims that Oswald was definitely guilty, the distinct lack of conclusive evidence. Despite the Commission’s and Select Committee’s trove of related documents, many cannot even admit the same groups were unable to establish a motive for the supposedly guilty man. One related official file states “The search for a clear motive was one search even the Warren Commission itself admitted had been unsuccessful…The Commission does not believe that it can ascribe to him any one motive or group of motives.”

Similarly, there have been hundreds of books, television programs, and online personalities that have made claims of possessing the best proof of a massive and largely untenable conspiracy. The verifiable official seeding of anti-conspiracy myths that were each built upon incomplete evidence regularly often has a greater number of matching pro-conspiracy presumptions. It appears there are many people gleeful to pick a side in the matter and consistently resist considering other evidence which damages their championed ideas. However, it was later revealed investigative mistakes and belated admissions of government dishonesty regarding the case, which also spurred on unreliable public claims. No matter what side a person chooses, neither of the most popular claims offered is seemingly based on decisive facts.

For instance, the prior lack of a motive for Oswald is just one significant factual detail rarely provided and often the proponents of his guilt merely repeat the words of unaccountable officials lost to history. With slight variances most academic bodies too often reiterate unproven talking points first established decades ago. Official spokesmen state nothing within the hundreds of thousands of documents released prior that establish contrary facts. They of course are mistaken at best, or, worse, are merely parroting the desired agenda of government agencies, which have failed to definitely prove what they claim. While reliable public research and the study of many official documents is scoffed at, there indeed are proven reasons to doubt the official case. Seemingly no person, public or official, knows the full extent or what transpired regarding the Kennedy case but that does not stop them from claiming such things.

A recent article, offered by the University of Virginia with notable Miller Center fellow Steve Gillon, claims that it was not officials lacking proof, but that a “narrative plays into this idea that there had to be a reason for his death; there had to be something more than just some lunatic taking a shot at the president. And I think that’s what feeds these conspiracy theories. We have turned Kennedy into a martyr for causes that he only reluctantly supported when he was in office. We need an explanation that is appropriate for the size of the tragedy. We need his death to have a larger meaning. It is hard to accept that it was a senseless act of violence.”

This explanation shifts the rightful blame from inadequate and even countermanding official claims to members of the public that seek to attribute greater meaning to the event. These are merely the opinions of someone promoting one side of the argument that seeks to denigrate those who disagree but no evidence to prove the claims is offered. We are left to accept the word of someone, and not facts, which is akin to any random claim regarding the case found in media or online. 

Indeed, feasible conspiracy possibilities beyond one man are supported not just by theories, but by quite a few verifiable aspects of the official case. Lee Harvey Oswald, as prior stated, lacked a decided motive and the problems extend further to his weapon, the required means ascribed by officials. Oswald’s rifle was in fact one of many surplus altered weapons for sale to the public leftover from prior wars. It had multiple functional problems and the man himself based on most evidence had no verified practice in the scant days before the assassination. Perhaps the most relevant factor in which to judge someone’s proficiency with a practiced skill is absent, no official case has proven he practiced with a rifle any time beyond his years in the military. Officials, and it seems some academics, just assume all such problems can be overlooked because they have no pertinent explanation for them. 

The President’s Commission itself made false assumptions even about the timeline in which Oswald might develop a plot. If we accept that Oswald is a lone gunman, we too must accept he can only learn of the motorcade passing the Texas Schoolbook Depository in the press on November 17, 1963. If we subtract all the time in that period he spent at work, sleeping, and with his family the timetable shifts from the months some have claimed to just over thirty hours of usable time. Such a proposition is highly improbable, and because officials were in a hurried frenzy to brand him guilty, they made foreseeable mistakes. Consider how it is possible a twenty-four-year-old man lacking, motive, means, and with scant opportunity was able to alone execute the plot despite no substantial evidence offered to prove the basic elements of the crime.

Upon further consideration of the claims made by the aforementioned academic group, perhaps it is not merely public speculations that have continued to generate attention to seeking the files, but evidence contrary to what the public has been repeatedly told by officials. Despite the unanimity presented in the press regarding the findings of the President’s Commission, multiple members detracted from various claims made within its final report privately in executive sessions. Additionally, several instances of later revealed official malfeasance and incompetence has kept many scouring the files regarding the Kennedy case because such things do not enhance respect for the official determinations.

The Central Intelligence Agency internally had decided Oswald’s guilt in less than a week based on varied documents, a laughable claim when considering that nearly sixty years later all the official evidence related to the case has not been released. As the UVA article suggests, there likely are embarrassing documents some agencies wanted forgotten, but also there is likely further information regarding programs and initiatives that might have been abused, which feasibly could allow some outside groups to undertake the assassination. From the CIA’s ZRRIFLE program, the Agency constructed to allow “executive action” capability (assassination capability), to Operation Mongoose, a similar sabotage warfare program, the CIA could have unknowingly provided the blueprints for a domestic political assassination.  While some might believe these were closely guarded secrets, the CIA approached several criminals, Cuban exiles, and questionable figures to undertake these endeavors and related officials shared aspects of such programs that might have allowed rogue members or outside parties to use the government’s plans against it.

Further consider that J. Edgar Hoover’s misuse of government power for decades, which includes using the FBI to privately attack those deemed Communists during the Red Scare, hampering the Civil Rights Movement, threatening Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life, and his attempts to block the release of FBI documents for years might be among the several reasons the public mistrusts some officials. Several additional later scandals which vary from the FBI’s illegal spying upon countless Americans to exposure of the CIA’s Castro assassination plots, during the years President Kennedy was killed, linger in the public’s mind. Each of these violations of the public trust are reasons to doubt what many officials claimed and likely increased public doubts.

While nothing has yet emerged as “groundbreaking” from the latest release of files yet, that does not diminish the likelihood that there is useful information to be gleaned or the emergence of files that are more complete than former versions, as has occurred in past releases. Add to the over ten thousand latest files that is each of a varying number of pages, and the hundreds of thousands of prior released files, that have provided insights prior once considered lost to history. Until the pages are read one cannot determine the contents of all related files and no one has read them all. Most likely there is even yet further insights to be gleaned not just from the latest documents but preceding ones as well. Some are determined to deem all such evidentiary possibilities as unlikely and the attempt to discover new evidence is unimportant. Yet as these pages are reviewed, what once was called impossible has sometimes been later proven. This occurs far more often than many officials, academics, and the press have ever anticipated, which is yet another viable reason to seek further information regarding the case.

C.A.A. Savastano