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10. The Warren Commission was not a rubber stamp.

The FBI did a quick assessment of President Kennedy’s assassination in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and created a report that was substantially right, all the evidence pointed to Oswald, but overlooked things, like the fact that one of Oswald’s three shots missed the President’s car completely. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach believed from the outset that conspiracy nonsense would surround this event if government officials did not get ahead of the curve by releasing the FBI’s full report and, possibly, appointing a commission of “unimpeachable” Americans to look into the matter.

On November 25, 1963, the day of President Kennedy’s funeral, Katzenbach sent a memo to White House Aide Bill Moyers voicing his concerns. (Yes, that’s the same Bill Moyers who went on to become a public television icon, as a journalist and interviewer.) Four days later, on November 29, President Johnson signed Executive Order 11130, creating the group that would be popularly known as, “The Warren Commission.” Rather than simply signing off on the FBI’s conclusions, the Commission took nine months to interview witnesses, comb through the evidence, visit locations, and chase down rumors, before releasing a very extensive report, with a vast amount of accompanying documents. All total there were 27 volumes, one summary book and 26 books of exhibits and transcripts.

Critics of the Warren Commision and its final report look for any minor complaint they can exploit, like the fact that the Commission did not interview the closest eyewitnesses to the fatal headshot, Bill and Gayle Newman, but there is nothing of substance to these complaints; nothing that would alter the basic facts of the case. The Newmans, for example, appeared on local Dallas TV almost immediately after the shooting and before they had been interviewed by anyone in law enforcement. If they had some shocking revelation that might point to a conspiracy that would have been the perfect time for it to come out. No one had, “got to them,” yet, as conspiracy theorists like to imagine. 

One of the many interesting things here is how Bill Newman thinks he only heard two shots and the reporter assures him that there were three shots. This runs contrary to what most conspiracy theorists have said over the years; that there were 4, 5, or more shots. Nevertheless, the Newmans gave several statements to the news media, to authorities, and to others at the time and over the years since then, so the oversight of the Warren Commission to not call them in directly is hardly worth harping on. It is not, by any means, evidence of a coverup.

But for conspiracy theorists, everything is evidence of a coverup. Even Katzenbach’s memo to Bill Moyers has been spin into a blueprint for the coverup, rather than a sincere effort to head off conspiracy stories and political grandstanding. Besides twisting the facts into the worst, and most unrealistic meanings they can imagine, conspiracy theorists also like to simply make things up. Time and time again I have heard complaints about how LBJ had Kennedy’s limo destroyed before anyone could look at it, so we’ll never know what evidence was in it. In reality, Special Agent Robert Frazier was the FBI’s lead firearms and ballistics examiner in 1963, and he personally inspected the limo with two other FBI Agents. Listen to him tell his own story and watch how deeply it impacted him. Even 50 years later he is still clearly heartbroken about the loss of the President. 

Keep in mind, this is just one of the hundreds of people involved with the Warren Commission’s effort to get at the truth. Detractors can say, “He’s lying,” “He’s making that up,” “He’s doing what he was told,” “He’s acting,” or whatever else makes them feel good about their phoney beliefs, but that doesn’t explain how all these people could have stayed on the same page so perfectly, decade after decade, if they were simply acting. This kind of consistency comes from honesty.

Some conspiracists try to get around this problem by saying that only the people at the top of the Commission were lying, not the general workers below. As I noted before, there is no good reason to believe that any of the Commission Members would have thrown away their fine reputations and everything they believed in to cover up someone else’s murder plot, but there is also a problem of internal logic in the conspiracy theorists’ argument here. If the Warren Commission was a clear and obvious coverup, consisting of allegedly “impossible” claims, like the so-called “magic bullet,” then everyone involved would have known this; not just the people at the top.

Some scepticism about the workings of government is reasonable and health, but that doesn’t mean that government officials are capable of doing the impossible and we should suspect them of every crime you can imagine. A few years ago I talked with Ed Cage, a native of Dallas and a Vietnam Vet who is very distrustful of the government in general, but he too has came to the same conclusion that I have about the Warren Commission. It was not a rubber stamp or a cover up. It’s just not possible.


Return to the complete list of 55 reasons to accept that Oswald acted alone.

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