A Sober & Thoughtful Critique Of The Warren Commission's Conclusions
Reviewed in the United States on 27 August 2011
This book was likely on the market in my native Australia before I was born (1975), and I had heard of it many times but never did get it until I bought it from Amazon recently. My used copy is still as pristine as CE399, even though it was the first edition hardcover !
The best news is that on Amazon, it's quite cheap in used condition - I think I paid a couple of bucks for the book, with the shipping to Australia being the most costly thing (but still very reasonable).
I really enjoyed this book, I wouldn't call it overtly conspiratorial as many of the books & TV programs I have seen around are, but I also take issue with the flaws in these too, whereas I found that Epstein is refreshing, as he strips back all the years of conjecture, and basically asks if the WC presented an honest case against Lee Harvey Oswald.
This is quite a short book - 201 pages from the intro to the end of Appendix B - but I can see why it was a successful publication at the time, and I would consider it required reading for anyone looking for a more balanced view of the WC findings. The last 50 pages are really the FBI preliminary report from December 1963, and the FBI supplementary report of January 1964. Some of the most interesting information you will find in this book:
- The WC's virtual panic of the allegation that LHO was an FBI informant, and almost incredulously, allowing Hoover of all people to check out this "ugly rumor". I'm sure that to everyone's total shock, Hoover found no evidence at all to support the allegation (it strikes me as being comparable to Hitler theoritically asking Himmler to publicly investigate if the Nazis were running extermination camps or not).
- How WC lawyer Ball had severe doubts about the testimoney of "star witness" Howard Brennan (pg 135-136), citing his difficulty in identifying a figure in the 6th floor window from his identical position on the fateful day, that he saw the assassin standing (when all evidence against LHO has him kneeling/sitting), and that Brennan advised the FBI he couldn't identify LHO even in January 1964 (months after LHO was underground and the case of him being a lone assassin seemed to be "air-tight"), yet in March 1964 as a witness, he felt as though he could identify LHO. However, fellow WC lawyer Redlich didn't have such qualms, and gave Brennan's dubious testimony "probative value".
- The almost stock-standard attack on Helen Markham's testimony (Tippit shooting witness), even pointing out that Ball dismissed her as unreliable. Although it doesn't appear in the book, Ball went so far as to refer to her as "an utter screwball".
- The consistent attack on Marina Oswald's testimony, which even Redlich had serious questions about, yet saw fit to rely on her testimony in the final Report.
- The FBI rifle tests, where none of the marksmen (who were a cut above LHO - NRA "master" class) could replicate LHO alleged performance in the time frame specified by the Zapruder film (although admittedly, contemporary sole assassin theorists tend to drag the maximum time frame back from z207 to z160 these days, allowing significantly more time). Reference is made to the oak tree blocking the shot before z207, an oldie in the world of conspiracy theory. Oddly, there was no breakdown from Epstein over the condition of Mannlicher Carcano C2766 (Oswald's alleged weapon), unlike in Sylvia Meagher's "Accessories After The Fact", where she gives a virtual damage report on it's condition.
- Reference to the 26-page memorandum of WC lawyer Wesley Liebeler from September, where he attacked several of the dubious "findings" of the WC, one of which I find most interesting is mentioning the very dubious "matching" of the blanket fibers (or "fibres" as we say in Oz) to the paper bag the rifle was allegedly carried in, and the noticeable lack of identical fibers on the rifle. Liebeler also pointed out the dubious downgrading of the sole assassin's shot being extremely difficult to "an easy shot", by cherry-picking the expert testimony.
- The standard attack on the positioning of the back wound, but interesting, the fact that the FBI preliminary report had the back wound bullet lodging after striking President Kennedy at a 45-60 downward angle, and no correction to this finding in the FBI supplementary report. The original pre-Specter theory was that the lodged bullet worked it's way out at Parkland Hospital, something that I have always felt seemed quite logical, as the supporting evidence (President's coat & jacket, 2x FBI reports, autopsy photo, death certificate and autopsy cover sheet, conclusions at Bethesda that the wound had an ending, and Willis photo showing no jacket bunch-up right around the time of this shot) seem to confirm to me where and how this bullet struck.
It should clearly be pointed out that this is a critique of the Warren Commission, it's limits, and it's selective conclusions, rather than providing a array of alternate theories about who might have done it if not LHO acting alone. You will find no mention of Cuban exiles, no mention of CIA ultras, and no mention of the mob, in regards to providing alternates. Epstein doesn't go out of his way to criticize or defend the FBI or even the Dallas Police, unlike a plethora of authors since (the most recent in my mind being Vincent Bugliosi, who stoically defends both organizations to the hilt in "Reclaiming History"). I think that Epstein had the formula correct - attack the WC conclusion first, before offering up alternative theories.
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