Skip to main content

tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 24, 2014 11:43am-12:40pm EST

11:43 am
white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. and celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, supreme court justice samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span 2 at 10:00 eastern, venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker and 10:30, see the feminine side of a super hero. and at 7:00 p.m., author pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits, and on american history tv on c-span 3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole, with speeches from presidents john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon, fashion experts on first lady fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times in which they lived, and then at 10:00, former nbc news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events.
11:44 am
that's this christmas day on the c-span americas. for our complete schedule, go to c-span.org. 50 years ago on september 24th, 1964, supreme court chief justice earl warren handed a report of the president's commission on the assassination of president kennedy to president lyndon johnson in the oval office. the seven commissioners pictured here with president johnson and general counsel jay lee rankin concluded that lee harvey oswald acted alone in killing president kennedy. the warren commission worked for nine months in this building, the washington office of the vfw, a short walk from the supreme court building and the u.s. capitol. we set up a camera in a fourth floor conference room to talk to investigative journalist philip shenon, whose book "a cruel and shocking act" examines the warren commission's work,
11:45 am
using key phone calls, documents and artifacts, mr. shenon explains the lingering controversies regarding the war and the report. but first we take a brief tour of the former warren commission offices. >> hi, i'm brian summers, marketing director for the u.s. capitol historical society. you're in the building of the foreign wars. the commission met here for approximately nine months. we're in catch them hall, a room where the testimony from the witnesses and those substantial to the investigation met here in this historic building itself. it was in this room here on this floor of the hall that the wavrn commission saw for the very first time the entirety. committee investigation and hearings would have taken place down here at the time in mid may of '64, lee harvey oswald's
11:46 am
brother was here. in february of '64 and we have photographs to substantiate that in the building here. and much of the work was up on the fourth floor, which we will see in a moment. which houses the u.s. capitol historical society. we're now on the fourth floor of the u.s. capitol historic society where in 1964 this would have been the working floor for the warren commission. i'm going to show you the office of chief justice earl warren. this would be chief justice earl warren's desk and his chair. you pretty sure this was his chair? >> absolutely. we have a lot of substantial information on it and from the vfw itself but also he was here as it came to the society. we are less than almost 150 feet from the court building itself, the supreme court, where he worked every day obviously and then came here in the after hours to see how the investigation was going on. if yo u can glance out the
11:47 am
window, you can see why the proximity to the court and the building here would have been to his choosing. this being the office of chief justice earl warren. this was a conference room table that existed in his area of the office at that time. just next door to chief justice earl warren's office was the office that occupied staff by council here. our inspector came to visit our building several years ago and pointeded out this was the office he and another associate worked in as they were investigating the death of the president in 1964. so now we're entering the conference room of what that time would have been, the warren commission, investigating the death of the president. much of the the furniture as the building itself we inherited from the veteran of foreign wars and inherited the furniture that came from the commission from the 1960s. well, i think this room was used
11:48 am
for individual witness interviews, smaller scale interviews, the less critical witnesses, that there was a very important witness and several of the commissioners were in attendance. i understand it was held downstairs in the larger conference room. but a tremendous amount of business was transacted in this room. i wrote this book because my first book was a history of the 9/11 commission. and i had covered the 9/11 commission investigation for "the new york times" from start to finish. after it wept out of business, i discovered there was a lot about the story that i had missed, and i learned this by going and interviewing a lot of the staffers who had done the actual digging of the 9/11 commission. so that book was publiced in 2008. and after the book got some nice reviews, i got a telephone call at my desk in the washington bureau of "the new york times," and the caller was somebody i didn't know, but he was a very
11:49 am
prominent american lawyer who explained he had begun his own career 50 years earlier on the staff of the other great commission to investigate a national tragedy, which was the warren commission. he suggested i do a similar history of the warren commission rk and he promised to help so long as i kept his name out of this because he knew i would discover embarrassing material he didn't want to be associated with, and he was right about that. but off i went. and i thought i had an interesting book project that might take me a couple of years to do. it turned out to be five years because it turned out to be such a complicated case of missing evidence, covered up evidence, and so much of the story of the kennedy assassination really had just never been told. >> we're going to look at some artifacts. the first thing we have here is -- well, there's a picture of the warren commission. >> this is the oval office.
11:50 am
september, 1964. almost exactly 50 years ago in which earl warren is handing the final report to president johnson. and perhaps and, perhaps, we want to point out the other members of the commission who are there. this is jon jay mccloi, former president of the world bank and sort of the great immense in washington of long standing. next to him is jay lee rankin, general counsel of the warren commission who really ran the staff. he was the solicitor general in the eisenhower administration. next to him is senator richard russell, who would sign the warren commission report, even though it became clear in the years after the commission went out of business that russell didn't agree with the report. that he thought there might well have been a conspiracy in kennedy's death. next to him is gerald ford, who would go on to become president of the united states, who was at the time a powerful house
11:51 am
republican. it would later be learned that ford had volunteered to be a secret informant for the fbi on the warren commission, to share information with the fbi quietly. and ford would acknowledge that years later. next to him, chief justice warren, president johnson. next to president johnson is alan dulles, the director of central intelligence for many years, who would be forced out of that job by the debacle of the bay of pigs. it sure appears that dulles had a terrible conflict of interest by serving on the warren commission, because among other things, it appears that dulles knew about the cia plots to kill fidel castro. in fact, he may have ordered some of those plots. yet he apparently shared none of that information with the warren commission. even though that information might have given -- suggested
11:52 am
paths of investigation -- indiana was prominent in the democratic leadership of the house and was very close to john kennedy. >> we're 50 years later. how should we mark that day, the anniversary of the release of the warren report? >> we should mark it with very mixed feelings because unhappily this report, which was hailed at the time as the definitive answer to many of the questions asked about the kennedy assassination, appears not to have been that. and it is remarkable to have discovered that the president who received the report that day, lyndon johnson, ultimately decided that the warren commission had it wrong. at the end of his life, lyndon johnson believed fidel castro had killed president kennedy and that the warren commission had somehow been mislead. it's a remarkable thing to discover the president of the
11:53 am
united states, who commissioned the warren commission, did not believe the commission's findings. >> president johnson is obviously thrust into power by the assassination. his initial instinct is not to have a federal investigation of the assassination. as it turns out, a presidential assassination in 1963 was not a federal crime. if there was going to be a trial of anyone, it would have to be arranged by the local and state officials in texas. and johnson also said he didn't want a bunch of, as he put it, carpet baggers going into his home state of texas to run this investigation. he wanted it handled by the state and county and city officials in dallas. but within days of the assassination, conspiracy the y theories started to spin. and some of those focused on lyndon johnson as a potential suspect in the murder of his predecessor. and johnson said, essentially, these conspiracy theories are spinning so wildly, have i to bring an end to it and i have to
11:54 am
bring an end to it by the creation of an independent commission in washington to investigate all that could be learned about the assassination and lee harvey oswald who was apparently the president's assassin. johnson settled on chief justice earl warren who can run this. warren was a very controversial figure in america in 1963. but he was also much admired for his independence and his personal integrity. and he was a republican. and johnson wanted a republican to run this investigation to show that it was truly bipartisan and truly an effort to get at the facts, whatever they might be. johnson also decides he wants representatives from the house and senate to serve on the commission and he wants his own representative on the commission, one of his best friends in the world, senator richard russell. probably the most powerful man in the senate in 1963. chairman of the senate armed services committee and a fierce
11:55 am
segregationist. a man who, if he loathed anybody in washington, d.c., loathed earl warren, who was leading the supreme court on civil rights and civil liberties rulings that russell felt had the potential to destroy what he described as the southern way of life. and would bring desegregation to the south and destroy his homeland. on the afternoon of friday, november 29th, exactly a week after the assassination, russell is called by president johnson and asked if he will serve on this commission. it's not in those days referred to as the warren commission because it hasn't been announced chief justice warren will lead it, this investigation of the assassination and russell declines. saying he's in poor health, suffering from emphysema and has too much to do in the senate. johnson listens to him, hangs up
11:56 am
the phone and decides that even though russell doesn't want to serve, he will serve. and johnson then has the white house press office issue a statement to the white house press corps announcing that the commission has been formed and that richard russell is on it, even if he doesn't want to be. >> i hate to bother you again, but i want you to know that i made an announcement. >> announcement of what? >> of this special commission. >> oh, you have already? >> yes. and i got -- may i read it to you? >> yes. >> the president announced he's appointing a special commission to study and report upon all the facts and circumstances relating to the assassination of the late president john f. kennedy and the subsequent violent deft man charged with the assassination. the president stated that the majority and minority leadership of the senate and house have been consulted with respect to full special commission. the members of the special
11:57 am
commission are chief justice earl warren, chairman. senator richard russell, georgia. senator john keeper, kentucky. representative gerald ford, michigan. honorable alan dulles, washington. john j. mccloi, new york. the special commission is instructed to evaluate all information. federal bureau of investigation is make a complete investigation of the facts. >> russell was justifiably flabbergasted about what johnson had just done. russell had told johnson he didn't want to serve on this commission. he couldn't serve on this commission. >> now, mr. president, i don't have to tell you my emotions to you but i just can't serve on that commission. i am highly honored you'd think about me in connection with it, but i couldn't serve with chief justice warren. i don't like that man.
11:58 am
>> must have been for russell a nightmare situation, but he salutes and accepts the assignment over a final protest with the president. you know, johnson used a similar set of strong-arm tactics on the chief justice. johnson settles on warren very early on as the only man who can run this investigation. when warren gets the invitation to serve, he turns it down flat. he says, there's a terrible history of supreme court justices serving on outside investigations. he doesn't have the time pep can't do it. he thinks the commission is a fine idea, but it cannot be led by him. when johnson gets word warren has turned down, warren is summoned within hours to the oval office. and unfortunately we, to 9 best of our knowledge, there's no recording of this, but
11:59 am
apparently the president tells warren in no uncertain terms that the assassination may lead to a nuclear war that will kill 40 million americans and that if that happens, it may be the responsibility of the chief justice unless he serves on this commission. apparently this confrontation leaves the chief justice in tears, but agreeing to run the investigation. this is an artifact they allowed us to videotape. oswald's guide map to mexico city. what is that? >> in my mind, in many ways, the untold chapter of the kennedy assassination story. is what happened when lee harvey oswald traveled to mexico city just several weeks before the assassination. have i to admit that when i went into the reporting on this book, i didn't know anything about this incident in mexico city, this trip that oswald takes. but it may be very important.
12:00 pm
and it's very clear to me that both the cia and the fbi were determined not to figure out what happened in mexico city because it might have revealed how much they had known about oswald in the weeks before the assassination and the threat he might pose to president kennedy. it turns out that oswald went to mexico city apparently to get the visa and paperwork that would allow him to defect to cuba, much as he tried to defect to the soviet union. while he's in mexico city, we now know while he's under surveillance by the cia in mexico city, he is meeting with cuban spies and russian spies and several mexicans who are very sympathetic to fidel castro's revolution. people who at the height of the cold war might have had some reason to see president kennedy dead.
12:01 pm
and the identity of those people, what oswald told them and what they told oswald would never be determined with certainty because the fbi and the cia simply didn't try to get to the bottom of it. >> this is what is in the warren report. >> this is the warren commission's best reconstruction of where oswald went and who he might have met with while in mexico. we now know a tremendous information about oswald's trip to mexico was never shared with the warren commission, so this is a very incomplete chronology of what went on. >> your book begins with telling this story of a suicide of charles thomas that relates to mexico city. why did you start with that? >> it's a remarkable story.
12:02 pm
in 1965, a year after the warren commission goes out of business, a diplomat -- american diplomat based in mexico city learns, to his shock that oswald may have been seen around town, mexico city, in the company of cubans and those sympathetic to castro, those who might have wanted to see president kennedy dead. and who oswald may well have been in the company of two young beetnik is the word used, whose identities have never been revealed. thomas, very fine diplomat, very much respected by his colleagues, thought somebody needed to investigate and go back and see if the warren commission had gotten it wrong. and if there was some sort of conspiracy to kill the president, and if that conspiracy was hatched in mexico city. and what the story of charles
12:03 pm
thomas becomes is one of utter frustration. nobody wants to investigate. nobody wants to get to the bottom of this. and he keeps asking the question again and again and again. for reasons that are very mysterious at the time, thomas finds his career derailed. and he finds himself forced out of the state department for what would later described as mistakes of a clerical nature. and there's some reason to believe he was forced out because he was asking too many questions about what the cia and fbi knew about oswald in mexico city. it appears that after he's forced out of this -- out of the state department, he is then denied any opportunity to begin a new career because he just can't get the references from the state department and the rest of the government that will allow him to get a new job. towards the end of his life he does write a letter to the secretary of state, william
12:04 pm
rogers, then president nixon's secretary of state, asking, pleaseding that somebody again try to get to the bottom of what happened in mexico city. there is no subsequent investigation. thomas, unable to find a new career, tragically kills himself two years later. >> what did the warren commission do in mexico city? what did they investigate or what was their opinion of what happened there? >> well, the investigation of mexico city was left largely to two staff lawyers on the commission. one bit name of william coleman, who at the time one of the most prominent african-american attorneys in the country and his junior staff fellow, a fellow by the name of david slassin, very young from denver, in his 30s. coleman was very much involved with his law firm in philadelphia. slausen was very intrigued by what happened in mexico city and
12:05 pm
wanted desperately to try to get to the bottom of what happened down there. unfortunately, what we now know is that a tremendous amount of information about what went on in mexico city was never shared with slausen, was never shared with the commission. and i think it's fair to say, the commission never got to the bottom of what actually happened in mexico. this is an artifact the national museum of archives allowed us to videotape. this is oswald address book. that's the cover of it. inside is this page, consulate of cuba and name, sylvia doran. >> she turns out to be a very important figure in all of this. the warren commission staff saw her as a very important figure in all of this. she's a young mexican woman, a committed socialist, who is employed by the cuban consulate in mexico city. she's the person who dealt face to face with oswald while he tried to get the visa and other
12:06 pm
paperwork from the cuban government that will allow him to defect. there's reason to believe that there was a relationship between oswald and duran that went on outside the walls of the cuban consulate. they were seen around town together, including a party attended by cuban diplomats, some of whom had spoken openly in the past about their hopes that somebody would kill president kennedy. the warren commission staff, this young fellow, david slausen, in particular, is desperate to talk to sylvia duran, to interview her to find out what she might know. after much negotiation, it appears sylvia duran will come to washington, agree to be interviewed but that idea is vetoed by chief justice warren who refuses to allow her to be interviewed. apparently his words are, she's a communist and, again, his words, we don't talk to communists. so this vital witness is never questioned by the commission. i tracked her down in mexico last year.
12:07 pm
she continued to deny that she had any sort of relationship with oswald outside the four walls of the cuban consulate. i'll tell you, there's a lot of evidence to the contrary. >> why would the cubans want -- or some of them apparently want kennedy to be assassinated? >> this is the height of the cold war. this is a year -- president kennedy is killed a year after the cuban missile crisis. there was almost a nuclear war over cuba. the year before that there was the debacle at the bay of pigs where the kennedy administration and the cia attempted to overthrow castro. and we now know the kennedy administration was trying to kill castro. >> james p. hosty. what's the significance of that? >> james hosty is the fbi agent
12:08 pm
who we now know had oswald under surveillance for weeks before the assassination. and actually went out to the home where marina oswald, oswald's wife, was living at the time, to interview her. and on the basis of what marina oswald tells lee harvey oswald, he writes in his notebook, hosty's name and a telephone number and i believe it's his license plate of his fbi car. this particular piece of paper in oswald's notebook would create an enormous rift between the commission and the fbi. because it appears the fbi tried to eliminate this portion of the notebook when it handed documentation over to the warren commission. it created a typewritten version of oswald's notebook and removed hosty's name, apparently in an effort to prevent the warren
12:09 pm
commission from knowing that oswald knew that this fbi agent had him under surveillance. that the fbi was monitoring his movements. a very dedicated member of the warren commission staff took the original notebook, which the commission had a copy of, and this typewritten summary that the fbi had prepared supposedly for the convenience of the commission and went page by page to see if anything was missing or anything had been misstated in the typewritten version. he discovered the fbi's name and all this other material had been removed in what appeared to be an effort to hide from the warren commission the fact that the fbi did have oswald under what appears to be pretty aggressive surveillance before the assassination. >> there's also a story of an artifact of a letter that oswald wrote to hosty that he himself destroyed, is that true? >> that's an amazing story. we now know that oswald was so
12:10 pm
agitated about the fbi's surveillance of him and his family before the assassination that he actually went to the dallas field office of the fbi in early november 1963 and presented some sort of letter in which he protested the surveillance. people in the fbi office in dallas would later say that oswald appeared to be very angry, maybe even crazy with anger, and left this note. after the assassination of president kennedy and after oswald himself is killed on sunday, november 24th, the decision is made in the fbi office in dallas that this note must be destroyed because it's evidence of just how much they had known about oswald of the fact that they had been in face-to-face contact with oswald just weeks before the assassination. and apparently this same agent, agent hosty, then takes the note to a men's room, shreds it and
12:11 pm
flushes it down the toilet. >> is it any surprise to you when you hear about all these things that there are a million conspiracy theories about -- >> not at all. not at all. and you know, i leave this with the inability to say even the craziest conspiracy theory has no basis because so much basic evidence was destroyed or hidden from the very first hours after president kennedy's body was returned to the -- to washington from dallas. >> in the phone call johnson said that the fbi is going to fully cooperate and help the warren commission. what was it like -- i mean, a lot of these pieces of evidence have an fbi number and a commission number. what was their relationship like? >> well, the fbi, the cia, all the agencies of government were ordered to cooperate fully with the warren commission when it got under way a week after the
12:12 pm
assassination. it's pretty clear that the fbi and the cia never cooperated fully with the commission. but the commission, you know, was a staff of only a couple dozen people. it couldn't conduct the massive investigation that would need to be conducted all around the country and all around the world if this was to be done properly. it had to depend to some degree on the fbi to do a lot of that. the fbi was gathering raw material that was then shared with the commission. the question becomes how much of this raw evidence the fbi gathered was with held from the commission. ruth payne is a russian language teacher in dallas who befriends marina oswald, invites marina oswald and her children to live with her for a period of time when lee harvey oswald is living outside of dallas. she would become a key figure in the warren commission investigation. and there would be initially
12:13 pm
some suspicion that miss payne knew much more than she was sharing. i think history shows she was forthright with the warren commission. >> this artifact is one of a group of artifacts videotaped by the national archives for the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. a bullet that was found in the home of general walker. edwin walker was a retired army general. he had actually been retired forcibly after creating a stir. he would -- he was a far right extremist. who was overseeing extremist groups in dallas. he was a nationalist in the segregation movement. and in april 1963, obviously several months before the
12:14 pm
kennedy assassination, somebody tries to kill edwin walker at his home in dallas. at the time and for weeks thereafter it wasn't clear who the assassin was. it would be determined by the warren commission that the assassin was lee harvey oswald and that he may well have used the same rifle in trying to kill walker that he would use in daley plaza to kill kennedy. it's marina oswald in the warren commission investigation who says her husband tried to kill the president. he had admitted that to her. >> did marina oswald come here? >> she did, indeed. she came on more than one occasion. she was here for, i think, several days in february 1964. she was the lead-off formal witness for the commission. and she was an important witness because she made it clear that she thought her husband had killed president kennedy and she
12:15 pm
thought he had done it alone. she's called back more than once after serious questions are raised about her truthfulness. among other things, in her initial interviews with the fbi and secret service, she denied she had any knowledge of this mexico city trip. it turned out later she knew all about it. she knew all about it before her husband had gone there. >> the so-called magic bullet and what was the significance of that for the commission? >> well, i think it's probably the single most controversial piece of evidence from the kennedy assassination investigation. it's the bullet the commission staff would conclude had passed through the bodies of both president kennedy and texas governor connolly. that contradicted the initial fbi report on the assassination, which found three bullets had landed in the president's limousine. the first one hit president kennedy in the back. the second one hit governor connolly in the back.
12:16 pm
and the third one hit president kennedy in the head, which was the fatal shot. the commission staff showed using the zapruder film that oswald would just not have had time to fire off three individual bullets into the limousine. if he didn't have time, that would suggest there must be a second -- at least one other gunman in daley plaza. the staff was convinced oswald acted alone as the gunman. it came up with a theory, the theory initially offered by one of the navy pathologists who conducts president kennedy's autopsy that perhaps one bullet had passed through both bodies. and that is what the commission staff, and i think subsequently a lot of serious scientists and technical teams have determined as well, that one bullet did pass through the bodies of both men and that this is that bullet. what surprised a lot of people is that this bullet wasn't much more damaged than it appears to
12:17 pm
be. it's sometimes referred to as the pristine bullet. as you can see here, it is not fully pristine. it was damaged some. and some scientists would tell you they would have expected to see much more damage if it had gone through both bodies. but there are no rules here. a lot of ballistics investigation is much more art than science. and all of the8y most reliable scientific evidence suggests that, indeed, this bullet did pass through both bodies. it turned up in parkland hospital after the president's death. >> i think at the end here there's the original letter that accompanies the bullet. >> it falls off the stretcher and becomes important to the commission staff, especially to arlen spectre, to show this fell from governor connolly's stretcher since it had presumably passed through president kennedy's body before it hit connolly.
12:18 pm
at the end of the investigation, the commission concludes it did, indeed, come from governor connolly's stretcher. >> you mentioned an fbi report that made conclusions that came out in december. >> an awful lot of confusion at the beginning of the investigation is created by what is supposedly an authoritative fbi report on the assassination. it's delivered to the white house and to the warren commission in december 1963. it's supposedly the result of this most aggressive fbi investigation of all time. the warren commission takes one look at it and most commissioners decide it's so inadequate, the investigation is being handled so poorly, the commission will have to do a much more aggressive investigation of its own. it continues to rely on the fbi to do a lot of the basic detective work but the relationship between the fbi and the warren commission was very strained.
12:19 pm
and this initial report had a lot to do with setting the ugly tone that existed between the rest of the investigation. >> how could the nation's leading law enforcement agency with sophisticated labs and experienced agents make a report that these lawyers considered inadequate and sloppy? >> that's a good question. we now know, of course, that the fbi in the era of j. edgar hoover, was never as discipli d disciplined -- never had the integrity we would have hoped it to have. and the fbi had a big problem after the investigation. because it turns out the fbi did have lee harvey oswald under surveillance, pretty aggressive surveillance before the
12:20 pm
assassination. j. edgar hoover, who was really a force unto himself at that time, to prove that oswald was a lone wolf, he carried out this aas nation alone, that nobody else knew about it, that there was no conspiracy, certainly no conspiracy that the fbi could have foiled. and he seems determined to prove that regardless of what the facts might actually show. >> this is a model used by the warren commission. >> right. i think this model now exists at the museum now located in the texas -- what used to be the texas school book depository. you'll see small models of cars were used to try to indicate where the president's limousine and the other cars and the motorcade had been at different times. this is arlen specter, at the time assistant district attorney
12:21 pm
of philadelphia, assigned temporarily to the warren commission. he's often referred to as the father of the single bullet theory. can you see him here demonstrating how the single bullet theory would have happened. that the body -- that a bullet passing through the body of this first gentleman, who's silting in for president kennedy, that the bullet would have passed through kennedy and then hit governor connally in the back. the commission staff felt strongly from the earliest days that they needed to go to dallas. they needed to try to reconstruct as much of the assassination scene as they could. they wanted to take the rifle, the one oswald apparently used, they wanted to take it back to the sixth floor of the texas book depository, affix a camera to the top of it and see what oswald would have seen through the scope of his rifle when he
12:22 pm
was taking the shots. that's what they're doing here with the assistance principally of the fbi. it turns out that chief justice warren did not want to do this reconstruction. he thought it was unnecessary. he didn't want to create this media ruckus in dallas, but eventually he's convinced it has to be done. >> then in the same film you can download online is a reconstruction, i think, of oswald's movements after the shooting? >> i think this is a reconstruction here of the perch on the sixth floor and this is, i guess, a gentleman in the role of oswald leafing the area of the perch on the sixth floor and showing how he would have left that floor and then left the building. >> and they end up following all the way down to the cafeteria where this man sits down to drink a coke. why was the timing of him
12:23 pm
leaving his perch and exiting the building so important? >> it becomes important because witnesses do encounter oswald in this cafeteria downstairs. the question becomes, did oswald have time to fire the shots, then get from the sixth floor downstairs to the cafeteria where he is seen swigging a soda. the warren commissions concludes he does have the time to get down there. he's remarkably poised when he's confronted by these witnesses. that's true of oswald in several situations after the assassination. that he's poised and articulate as he denies he had any involvement in the assassination. well, i would just say this about the ballistics evidence. it's a confusing topic if only because certain expeerments are done by the warren commission, or at least done at the request of the warren commission, and many, many, many have been done in the decades since.
12:24 pm
the most reliable scientific evidence shows that the dull ets and dull et fragments that can be identified appear to have come from oswald's rifle. >> this is one you requested that we look at, the national archives allowed us to videotape, a bus transfer ticket found in oswald's pocket after his arrest. >> this is fascinating to me because it reflects an investigation that was carried out by the warren commission staff but was not reflected in the warren commission's final report. which is that one of the most aggressive of the staff lawyers on the commission becomes convinced that oswald was trying to flee somewhere. that he had someplace in mind to go after the assassination. and this young lawyer, a fellow by the name of david bellin from des moines, iowa, finds this bus transfer from the day of the
12:25 pm
assassination, suggesting that oswald was going to use this bus transfer to get somewhere in particular. oswald knew the bus routes of dallas. he used the public transport all the time. and the conclusion was that oswald was going to use the transfer because he knew there was a bus that he wanted to connect to. this young lawyer comes to the conclusion eventually that oswald may as well been heading back to new mexico. something happened during oswald's mexico city visit. he encountered cubans or those sympathetic to cuba who offered to help oswald if he could get back out of the united states after the assassination. as i say, that theory, and it was only a theory, but that theory is not reflected in the warren commission's final report because the warren commission leaders, chief justice warren in particular, wanted to rule out speculation. wanted to rule out that other people knew about or conspired with oswald. >> what was that dynamic like between someone who had a theory about the bus transfer and the
12:26 pm
commissioners? was there a lot of tension? >> well, there was tension. not much communication, direct communication. a long of young staffers, most of whom are still alive and i interviewed for this book, they were really cut off from the commissioners. they were cut off from chief justice warren. there was very little interaction with them and that became a matter of great frustration. in the case of this business with the bus transfer and this theory about oswald going to mexico because somebody had promised to help him, that -- that never gets close to getting into the final report. it's actually senior staffers within the commission who ruled that out, again, because the commission doesn't want to encourage speculation, ion though some of the speculation might point to co-conspirators in the assassination. >> this is the zapruder camera as it's stored at the national archives. >> abraham zapruder is a dallas
12:27 pm
women's wear manufacturer who on the day of the assassination wanted to record images of the. the's motorcade passing through de de de dealey plaza. this is his bell & howell movie camera and it turns out he captures all of the assassination. it's 20 seconds of film. it's certainly the most important piece of evidence that the warren commission had. it, as i say, documented every essential moment of the assassination and it acted essentially as a clock on the assassination. it could suggest when individual shots were fired and when individual shots hit the body of president kennedy and governor connally. zapruder very quickly after the assassination sold the film to "life" magazine. and that created an awkward situation where the warren commission didn't immediately have access to this very vital
12:28 pm
piece of information. eventually "life" magazine hands over the original film so the commission could see it. and assist i say, i think it's undoubtedly the most important piece of physical evidence the commission had access to. >> there's another document you told us about in an e-mail. an unpublished memoir by winston scott. >> winston scott was the cia station chief in mexico city in 1963. he was almost certainly more powerful than any of the ambassadors in mexico city he served under. he had been there since the -- since, i believe, 1956. he had sources throughout the mexican government. and it turned out after the assassination that scott and his colleagues from cia in mexico city had oswald under pretty aggressive surveillance during
12:29 pm
his mexico city trip, scott told the warren commission when they go to visit him. staff members go to mexico city to meet with him. he tells the warren commission that he does not believe there was conspiracy. certainly no conspiracy that had anything to do with mexico city or the surveillance that scott's staff conducted of oswald while he was there. years and years after the assassination it turned out that scott had decided to write his memoirs. and his memoirs, which were declassified only in the 1990s, showed that he apparently never told the truth to the warren commission. he thought there might well have been a conspiracy that involved some communist government. he thought it might be the soviet union. and the reasons for him not telling the truth to the warren commission in 1964 are baffling. i think there's good reason to believe that he knew much more about lee harvey oswald and what
12:30 pm
had happened in mexico than he ever wanted to share with the warren commission. if only because it would prove that he knew that oswald might be a threat and yet never passed on that information to washington where it might have been used to save the president's life. >> towards the end of your book you mention a -- there's an eye-popping document from the cia that's 132-page sort of summary of what they knew about oswald? >> well, the cia many years after the assassination puts together this incredible chronology, day by day by day, of what they had known about lee harvey oswald, specifically foection cussed on what the cia knew about his travels to mexico. and it showed that the cia had been aware pretty quickly after the assassination, certainly shortly after the warren commission went out of business,
12:31 pm
that there was much more to the story of oswald in mexico city than had ever been shared with washington. again, the record shows that the cia knew much more about oswald than it ever told anyone, even to this day, i believe. there are still documents about the kennedy assassination, about the cia's knowledge of oswald, that are still considered classified and are still under seal at the national archives. you know, there's reason to believe that the cia may have had contact in one form or another with oswald while he was in mexico city. and i think the cia may have feared that that fact, if is it had become known, would have created a massive scandal for the cia. a scandal that the agency did not want to address. years later congress would investigate the kennedy assassination. the house of representatives. and they would find witnesses from within the cia who said that the cia had photographs of surveillance photographs that
12:32 pm
were taken of oswald during his mexico city trip. and it appeared there were tape-recordings of his telephone calls while he was in mexico city and all of this evidence would never be shared with the warren commission. in fact, the cia would claim the tapes were erased routinely before the assassination and these photographs never existed. and yet it sure appears they may well have existed. >> you begin in your book with mexico city and you end with mexico city. this is sylvia duran's name in oswald's address book. can we know what happens there? what's your conclusion when you think about mexico city? >> i'll tell you one bit of hope i have here is that there still may be questions to be answered in mexico city. there are people -- people alive to this day who seem to know much more about what oswald was doing in mexico city in the fall of 1963 than they ever shared
12:33 pm
with the united states government or that they were ever asked about at the time. a lot of people seemed to have been ignored by the fbi and cia in 1963 and 1964. they seem to be able to place oswald in the company of people who may have wanted to see president kennedy dead. who may have encouraged him to go back to texas and do what he did. i think the single most eye-popping document in all the work i did on this book, and it is found at the national archives, is a letter that was sent by fbi director jay edgar hoover to the warren commission in june 1964 in which he reveals, and i think he reveals very reluctantly, that the fbi had come across reliable information to suggest that oswald, while he's in mexico, had been talking openly about his intention to kill president kennedy. that he had actually marched into an embassy, a communist
12:34 pm
embassy, certainly appears to have been the cuban embassy, and announced that he was going to kill president kennedy. that letter from hoover to the warren commission seems to disappear. i've shown it to members of the warren commission staff, the men who should have seen it at the time, who should have been able to follow up and investigate further in mexico city, and they're convinced they never saw it. if they had seen it, you would think they would go back to mexico and find out who else heard oswald make that boast and what they did with it. people in mexico hearing this man talk openly about killing president kennedy. promising to help him get out of the united states. but the warren commission staff wasn't allowed to investigate because it appears they never saw this letter. >> this is a video of the government printing office's copy of the warren report, 26
12:35 pm
volumes. did this work serve the public well? >> i think unhappily history k;o shows the warren commission missed a tremendous amount of information. information was hidden from the warren commission. there is the possibility that at least people around lee harvey oswald knew what he was planning to do and may have encouraged him to do what he was going to do. you know, conspiracy is a loaded word but that does raise the question if there were others who conspired with lee harvey oswald to kill john kennedy. >> we're sitting in the conference room that the warren commission used. the same bookshelves, the same table. what did the people who came to you to ask you to write this book, what has been their reaction to your work? >> i think a lot of them have been horrified to discover just how much evidence was withheld
12:36 pm
from them in 1964. i think they all had a strong sense that material had been destroyed or hidden from them way back then. i don't think they knew the extent of it until now. i think a lot of the people -- the warren commission staffers, who are central figures in my book and people i depended on in my interview, a lot of them are gratified to see that my book recognizes most of them were not trying to hide anything. many of them were eager to find a conspiracy if one existed. they really worked their hearts out on this investigation. some of them to the point of physical collapse. i think they're pleased by the fact that history will show they tried to do their jobs well. if the warren commission failed, it wasn't because of them. they tried to neighboring this work. >>. >> you've written two books about the warren commission and the united states. what lessons can the american public draw from your work about the value of these commissions?
12:37 pm
>> i'll tell you the largest conclusion i've come to, which is that both the 9/11 commission and the warren commission were hindered by the fact that politicians and politicians played a role that have damaged the reputation of both investigations. i wonder if in the future we face the next national tragedy, whether we want to have truly independent scholars and historians run these investigations. i think that might have served us very well if real historians, real scientists, real tech technicians got involved in the assassination of president kennedy.
12:38 pm
>> you've been watching c-span's american history tv. we want to hear from you. follow us on twitt twitter @c-spanhistory, connect with us on facebook at facebook.com/yspanhistory where you can leave comments, too. check out upcoming programs on our website, c-span.org/history you can leave comments, too. check out upcoming programs on our website, c-span.org/history you can leave comments, too. check out upcoming programs on our website, c-span.org/history. >> we would like to tell you about some of our other american history tv programs. be with us every saturday at 8 p.m. and midnight eastern for lectures in history. join students in the classroom to hear lectures on campuses across the country on topics ranging from the american revolution to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. again, that's lectures in history every saturday at 8 p.m. and midnight eastern here on american history tv on c-span3.
12:39 pm
festivities start at 10 a.m. eastern on c-span with the lighting of the national christmas tree followed by the white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama. and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. and just after 12:30 p.m., celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, supreme court justice samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span2 at 10 a.m. eastern, venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker. and at 12:30 see the feminine side of a super hero as jill lapore searches the secret history of wonder woman. at 7 p.m. author pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. on american history tv on c-span3 at 8 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george w. bush and bob dole with speeches from presidents john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon fashion experts on first ladies' fashion choices and how

46 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on