Page 11


The Official Doubters Austin Georgia Sen. Richard B. Russell’s admission that he has never believed that Lee Harvey Oswald planned President Kennedy’s assassination alone is but the latest in a string of indications that the widespread doubt about the Warren Report extends not only to probably a majority of ordinary Americans, but reaches also into the upper levels of the federal government. Russell, one of the seven members of the Warren Commission, told an Atlanta interviewer last week that, “I think someone else worked with [Oswald on the planning] … There were too many things the fact that [Oswald] was at Minsk and that was the principal center for educating Cuban students [in Russia] . . . Some of the trips he made to Mexico City and a number of discrepancies in the evidence, or as to his means of transportation, the luggage he had and whether or not anyone was with him [that] caused me to doubt that he planned it all by himself.”‘ Russell eased his conscience in the matter by insisting that, before he would sign his name to the Warren Report, a disclaimer be included, to the effect that evidence that Oswald had had help was not adduced to the commission nor was turned up by the nation’s investigative agencies. 2 The latter point is quite debatable, as critics of the Warren Report have demonstrated to the satisfaction of a considerable body of Americans. Other high officials who have voiced doubt almost always in muted, indirect ways about the Warren Report include John Connally, the Texas governor who was seriously wounded at the time Kennedy was killed; 3 Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney who won a death sentence for Jack Ruby, Oswald’s murderer; Louisiana Sen. Russell Long, who encouraged New Orleans Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison to proceed with an investigation \(Long, Garrison says, expressed “grave doubts” that Oswald had 4 BOTH CONNALLY and Waggoner Carr, who in 1963 was the Texas attorney general, have in their own, indirect ways raised the gravest-possible doubts about the Warren Report. But both men have been unwilling to face squarely the implications of some things they have said about November 22, 1963. Connally averred, when being interviewed by Life magazine in the fall of 19665 that he was certain that the bullet that had struck him had not also struck President Kennedy. Connally says he heard the first shot evidently the one that struck the president in the neck then Connally was himself hit, not hearing a subsequent shot. Almost surely Connally was in fact hit by a separate bullet; he doesn’t recall hearing the shot that struck him; this is consistent with the physics of the matter. The shot would have struck him before the sound would have reached him. In the furor that arose from Connally’s statements published in Life, Connally, a couple of days later, hastily went before the press in Austin to say he had no doubts about the Warren Report. But he stuck by his impression that he had been hit by a separate bullet. If he was struck by a separate bullet then there were at least two persons firing at the Kennedy-Connally car that day in Dallas. We know this because Connally was struck by a bullet about 1.5 seconds after Kennedy first was hit; this is too quickly for a second shot to have been fired by the bolt-action rifle Oswald was said to have used. Carr, in January, 1964, reported to the Warren Commission that he \(and Dallas DA the FBI’s employ as a $200-a-month informer at the time of the assassination Carr has since ignored the Warren Commission’s handling of his tip and has endorsed the report. What did the Warren Commissioners do when advised of the report about Oswald and the FBI? Edward Jay Epstein, in his important woyk Inquest, 6 which details just how the Warren Commission operated, tells us that the commissioners decided to advise FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover of the allegation, to permit the bureau to investigate the matter and, as commission counsel J. Lee Rankin put it, “clean its own skirts” before the commission investigated the question. As it turned out, the commission never did look into the matter but contented itself with taking the sworn word of Hoover. Senator Russell and Kentucky Sen. John Sherman, both commission members, had doubts about this procedure but acquiesced to it. Michigan Cong. Gerald Ford, also a commission member, explained the commission’s position in this by saying it “would not be justified in plunging into the matter [of Oswald and the FBI] in some irresponsible manner that might jeopardize the effectiveness of an important agency’s future operations.” 7 The source of the report about Oswald and the FBI was a story written in the Houston Post by Lonnie Hudkins. He told the Secret Service that his source had been Allan Sweatt, the chief of the criminal division of the Dallas sheriff’s office. 8 Sweatt was never questioned by the commission or its staff, nor was any effort made to see how the FBI files made to see if the code number Sweatt said had been existed or had in fact been given Oswald. 9 IN EPSTEIN’S view, it really was not that important whether Oswald was on the FBI payroll, though surely this is a debatable point. “… [T] he important question is,” he says, “How did the commission choose to deal with a potentially damaging rumor?” “Two courses of action were open to the commission,” he goes on, “It could have investigated the rumor itself and called as witnesses the persons known to be the immediate sources of the rumor. This approach quite probably would have exhausted the rumor, but it might have revealed information damaging to the national interest. “On the other hand the commission could have turned the whole matter over to the FBI. “This approach would not only have served to dispel the rumor, but would also have ensured that no damaging information would be revealed in the process unless the agency concerned itself chose to reveal it. “In the end the commission took the second approach. The entire matter was turned over to the FBI, to affirm or deny, and the commission relied solely on the FBI’s word in concluding that ‘there was absolutely no type of informant or undercover relationship’ between Oswald and the FBI,” Epstein writes. 1 He adds that nowhere in the Warren Report is Carr’s and Wade’s mention of the Oswald-FBI matter mentioned; furthermore, the Secret Service interview of Hudkins, the Post reporter, has been withheld from the National Archives. “Quite clearly,” Epstein says, “the commission handled the problem in such a way that it would not be made known.” 11 This is consistent with Epstein’s findings at numerous similarly crucial junctures in the commission’s deliberation; that wherever there existed a lead that might have cast doubt on the single-assassin theory the commissioners would gloss over or ignore that lead. Epstein believes the commission’s true function was not to ascertain the facts of President Kennedy’s loss but was, rather, “to reassure the nation and protect the national interest.” 12 His detailed account of the commission’s workings makes out a compelling case for that view. Carr, who surely was aware of the commission’s careless handling of his report about Oswald’s possible connection with the FBI, was, based on his personal knowledge, far from justified in writing, as February 6, 1970 9