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The circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, spawned suspicions of a conspiracy. These suspicions were mitigated somewhat when an official investigation by the Warren Commission concluded the following year that there was no conspiracy. Since then, doubts have arisen regarding the Commission's controversial finding that only Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for the assassination of Kennedy, and most Americans in the present-day believe that others besides Oswald were also involved in the assassination. Critics have argued that the Commission and the government have covered up crucial information pointing to a conspiracy.
Subsequent official investigations confirmed most of the conclusions of the Warren Commission. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy, with: "...a high probability that two gunmen fired at [the] President". No person or organization was identified by the HSCA as having been a co-conspirator of Oswald. The acoustical evidence that the House Select Committee partly based its conspiracy conclusion on has since been discredited.
Most current theories put forth a criminal conspiracy involving parties as varied as the CIA, the Mafia, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the military industrial complex, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban President Fidel Castro, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the KGB, or some combination of those entities. In an article published prior to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, author Vincent Bugliosi estimates that a total of 42 groups, 82 assassins, and 214 people have been accused in conspiracy theories challenging the "lone gunman" theory.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by gunfire as he traveled in a motorcade in an open-top limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22, 1963 (12:30 pm, CST); Texas Governor John Connally was wounded during the shooting, but survived. Within two hours, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit and arraigned that evening. Shortly after 1:30 am, Saturday, Oswald was arraigned for murdering President Kennedy as well. On Sunday, November 24, at 11:21 am, nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald as he was being transferred to the county jail.
Immediately after the shooting, many people suspected that the assassination was part of a larger plot. Ruby's shooting of Oswald compounded initial suspicions. Among conspiracy theorists, Mark Lane has been described as writing "the first literary shot" with his article, "Defense Brief for Oswald," in the December 19, 1963, edition of the National Guardian. Thomas Buchanan's Who Killed Kennedy?, published in May 1964, has been credited as the first book alleging a conspiracy.
In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone and that no credible evidence supported the contention that he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. The Commission also indicated that Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State; Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense; C. Douglas Dillon, the Secretary of the Treasury; Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General; J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI; John A. McCone, the Director of the CIA; and James J. Rowley, the Chief of the Secret Service, each independently reached the same conclusion on the basis of information available to them.
However, during the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison challenged the single bullet theory with evidence from the Zapruder film that a fourth shot from the Grassy Knoll was responsible for Kennedy's fatal head wound.
In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) agreed with the Warren Commission that Oswald assassinated Kennedy, but concluded that the Commission's report and the original FBI investigation were seriously flawed. The HSCA concluded that at least four shots were fired with a "high probability" that two gunmen fired at the President, and that a conspiracy was probable. The HSCA stated that "the Warren Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President."
According to John McAdams: “The greatest and grandest of all conspiracy theories is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory.” Others have frequently referred to it as "the mother of all conspiracies". The number of books written about the assassination of Kennedy has been estimated to be in the range of 1,000 to 2,000. According to Vincent Bugliosi, 95% of those books are "pro-conspiracy and anti-Warren Commission".
Kennedy assassination enthusiasts have been described as belonging to "conspiracy theorists" on one side and "debunkers" on the other. The great amount of controversy surrounding the event has led to bitter disputes between those who support the conclusion of the Warren Commission and those who reject it or are critical of the official explanation with each side leveling toward the other accusations of "naivete, cynicism, and selective interpretation of the evidence".
Public opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. However, on the question of a government cover-up, different polls show both a minority and majority of Americans who believe the government engaged in one. These same polls also show that there is no agreement on who else may have been involved. A 2003 Gallup poll reported that 75% of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. That same year an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person. A 2004 Fox News poll found that 66% of Americans thought there had been a conspiracy while 74% thought there had been a cover-up. As recently as 2009, some 76% of people polled for CBS News said they believed the President had been killed as the result of a conspiracy. A Gallup Poll released November 15, 2013, approaching the 50th anniversary, still found only 30% of the population believe Oswald acted alone, and continued the run of 50 consecutive years of those believing that Oswald doing it by himself, never reaching a majority.
Numerous researchers, including Mark Lane, Henry Hurt, Michael L. Kurtz, Gerald D. McKnight, Anthony Summers, and others have pointed out what they characterize as inconsistencies, oversights, exclusions of evidence, errors, changing stories, or changes made to witness testimony in the official Warren Commission investigation, which they say could suggest a cover-up.
Richard Schweiker, United States senator and member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told author Anthony Summers in 1978, "I believe that the Warren Commission was set up at the time to feed pabulum to the American public for reasons not yet known, and that one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of our country occurred at that time. On the CBS News program Face the Nation, Schweiker also said: "I think the [Warren] report, to those who have studied it closely, has collapsed like a house of cards ... the fatal mistake the Warren Commission made was to not use its own investigators, but instead to rely on the CIA and FBI personnel, which played directly into the hands of senior intelligence officials who directed the cover-up.
James H. Fetzer took issue with a 1998 statement from Federal Judge John R. Tunheim, the Chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), who stated that no "smoking guns" indicating a conspiracy or cover-up were discovered during their efforts in the early 1990s to declassify documents related to the assassination. Fetzer identified 16 "smoking guns" which he claims prove the official narrative is impossible, and therefore a conspiracy and cover-up occurred. He claims that evidence released by the ARRB substantiates these concerns. These include problems with bullet trajectories, the murder weapon, the ammunition used, inconsistencies between the Warren Commission's account and the autopsy findings, inconsistencies between the autopsy findings and what was reported by witnesses at the scene of the murder, eyewitness accounts that conflict with x-rays taken of the President's body, indications that the diagrams and photos of the President's brain in the National Archives are not the President's, testimony by those who took and processed the autopsy photos that the photos were altered, created, or destroyed, indications that the Zapruder film had been tampered with, allegations that the Warren Commission's version of events conflicts with news reports from the scene of the murder, an alleged change to the motorcade route which facilitated the assassination, an alleged lax Secret Service and local law enforcement security, and statements by people who claim that they had knowledge of, or participated in, a conspiracy to kill the President.
Richard Buyer wrote that many witnesses whose statements pointed to a conspiracy were either ignored or intimidated by the Warren Commission. In JFK: The Last Dissenting Witness, a 1992 biography of Jean Hill, Bill Sloan wrote that Arlen Specter, assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, attempted to humiliate, discredit, and intimidate Jean Hill into changing her story. Jean Hill also told Sloan that she was abused by Secret Service agents, harassed by the FBI, and was the recipient of death threats.
A later book by Sloan, JFK: Breaking the Silence, quotes several assassination eyewitnesses as saying that Warren Commission interviewers repeatedly cut short or stifled any comments casting doubt on the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. An updated version of Sloan's book, retitled The Kennedy Conspiracy: 12 Startling Revelations About the JFK Assassination, was published as an e-book in 2012. It includes the only comprehensive interview ever conducted with the late Ed Hoffman, a deaf-mute eyewitness. Through a sign-language interpreter, Hoffman tells of seeing gunmen behind the wooden fence in Dealey Plaza as Kennedy's motorcade passed by.
In his book Crossfire, Jim Marrs gave accounts of several people who said they were intimidated by FBI agents, or intimidated by anonymous individuals, into altering or suppressing what they knew about the assassination, including Richard Carr, Acquilla Clemmons, Sandy Speaker, and A. J. Millican. Marrs also wrote that Texas School Book Depository employee Joe Molina "...was intimidated by authorities and lost his job soon after the assassination," and that witness Ed Hoffman was warned by an FBI agent that he "might get killed" if he revealed what he had observed in Dealey Plaza on the day of the assassination.
Allegations of mysterious or suspicious deaths of witnesses connected with the Kennedy assassination originated with Penn Jones, Jr., and were brought to national attention by the 1973 film Executive Action. Jim Marrs later presented a list of 103 people he believed died "convenient deaths" under suspect circumstances. He noted that the deaths were grouped around investigations conducted by the Warren Commission, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Marrs pointed out that "these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public."
Vincent Bugliosi has described the death of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen—who said she was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby—as "perhaps the most prominent mysterious death" cited by assassination researchers. According to author Jerome Kroth, Mafia figures Sam Giancana, John Roselli, Carlos Prio, Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Nicoletti, Leo Moceri, Richard Cain, Salvatore Granello, and Dave Yaras were likely murdered to prevent them from revealing their knowledge. According to author Matthew Smith, others with some tie to the case who have died suspicious deaths include Lee Bowers, Gary Underhill, William Sullivan, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, George de Mohrenschildt, four showgirls who worked for Jack Ruby, and Ruby himself.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated another alleged "mysterious death"—that of Rose Cheramie. The Committee reported that Louisiana State Police Lieutenant Francis Fruge traveled to Eunice, Louisiana, on November 20, 1963—two days before the assassination—to pick up Rose Cheramie, who had sustained minor injuries after she was hit by a car. Fruge drove Cheramie to the hospital and said that on the way there, she "...related to [him] that she was coming from Florida to Dallas with two men who were Italians or resembled Italians." Fruge asked her what she planned to do in Dallas, to which she replied: "...number one, pick up some money, pick up [my] baby, and ... kill Kennedy." Cheramie was admitted and treated at State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana for alcohol and heroin addiction.
State Hospital physician, Dr. Victor Weiss later told a House Select Committee investigator that on November 25—three days after the assassination—one of his fellow physicians told him "...that the patient, Rose Cheramie, stated before the assassination that President Kennedy was going to be killed." Dr. Weiss further reported that Cheramie told him after the assassination that she had worked for Jack Ruby and that her knowledge of the assassination originated from "word in the underworld." After the assassination, Lt. Fruge contacted Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz regarding what he had learned from Cheramie, but Captain Fritz told him he "wasn't interested". Cheramie was found dead by a highway near Big Sandy, Texas, on September 4, 1965; she had been run over by a car.
Another "suspicious death" cited by Jim Marrs was that of Joseph Milteer, director of the Dixie Klan of Georgia. Milteer was secretly tape-recorded thirteen days before the assassination telling Miami police informant William Somersett that the murder of Kennedy was "in the working." Milteer died in 1974 when a heater exploded in his house. The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported in 1979 that Milteer's information on the threat to the President "was furnished [to] the agents making the advance arrangements before the visit of the President" to Miami, but that "the Milteer threat was ignored by Secret Service personnel in planning the trip to Dallas." Robert Bouck, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Secret Service's Protective Research Section, "...testified to the committee that threat information was transmitted from one region of the country to another if there was specific evidence it was relevant to the receiving region."
The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the allegation "that a statistically improbable number of individuals with some direct or peripheral association with the Kennedy assassination died as a result of that assassination, thereby raising the specter of conspiracy". The committee's chief of research testified: "Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation."
Author Gerald Posner points out that Marrs' list was taken from the group of about 10,000 people connected even in the most tenuous way to the assassination, one of the multiple official investigations, or the independent research of conspiracy theorists. He notes that it would be surprising if a hundred people out of ten thousand did not die in "unnatural ways" and points out over half of the people on Marrs' list did not in fact die mysteriously, but of natural causes, such as Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, who died of heart failure at age 69 in 1984, long after the Kennedy assassination, but is on Marrs' list as someone whose cause of death is "unknown". Posner also points out that many prominent witnesses and conspiracy researchers continue to live long lives and have not made it onto the mysterious death list.
According to Vincent Bugliosi, allegations that the evidence against Oswald was planted, forged, or tampered with is a main argument among those who believe a conspiracy took place.
Some assassination researchers assert that witness statements indicating a conspiracy were ignored by the Warren Commission. In 1967, Josiah Thompson stated that the Commission ignored the testimony of seven witnesses who saw gunsmoke in the area of the stockade fence on the grassy knoll, as well as an eighth witness who smelled gunpowder at the time of the assassination. In 1989, Jim Marrs wrote that the Commission failed to ask for the testimony of witnesses on the triple overpass whose statements pointed to a shooter on the grassy knoll.
Other researchers reported that witnesses who captured the assassination in photographs or on film had their cameras and/or film confiscated by police or other authorities. Author Jim Marrs and documentary producer Nigel Turner presented the account of Gordon Arnold who said that his film of the motorcade was taken by two policemen shortly after the assassination. Another witness, Beverly Oliver, came forward in 1970 and said she was the "Babushka Lady" who is seen, in the Zapruder film, filming the motorcade. She said that after the assassination she was contacted at work by two men who she thought "...were either FBI or Secret Service agents." According to Oliver, the men told her that they wanted to develop her film and would return it to her within ten days, but they never returned the film.
Richard Buyer and others have complained that many documents pertaining to the assassination have been withheld over the years, including documents from the Warren Commission investigation, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation, and the Church Committee investigation. These documents at one time included the President's autopsy records. Some documents are still not scheduled for release until 2029. Many documents were released during the mid-to-late 1990s by the Assassination Records Review Board under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. However, some of the material released contains redacted sections. Tax return information, which would identify employers and sources of income, has not yet been released.
The existence of large numbers of secret documents related to the assassination, and the long period of secrecy, suggests to some the possibility of a cover-up. One historian noted, "There exists widespread suspicion about the government's disposition of the Kennedy assassination records stemming from the beliefs that Federal officials (1) have not made available all Government assassination records (even to the Warren Commission, Church Committee, House Assassination Committee) and (2) have heavily redacted the records released under FOIA in order to cover up sinister conspiracies." According to the Assassination Records Review Board, "All Warren Commission records, except those records that contain tax return information, are (now) available to the public with only minor redactions." In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by journalist Jefferson Morley, the CIA stated that it had approximately 1,100 JFK assassination-related documents, about 2,000 pages in total, that have not been released for reasons of national security.
Some researchers have alleged that various items of physical evidence have been tampered with, including: the "single bullet", also known as the "magic bullet" by critics of the official explanations; various bullet cartridges and fragments; the limousine's windshield; the paper bag in which the Warren Commission said Oswald hid the rifle; the so-called "backyard" photos which depict Oswald holding the rifle; the Zapruder film; the photographs and radiographs obtained at Kennedy's autopsy; and Kennedy's body itself.
Among the evidence against Oswald are the photographs of Oswald posing in his backyard with a Carcano rifle—the weapon identified by the Warren Commission as the assassination weapon. Some researchers, including Robert Groden, assert that these photos are fake. However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that the photographs of Oswald are genuine and Oswald's wife, Marina says that she took them.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations described the Zapruder film as "the best available photographic evidence of the number and timing of the shots that struck the occupants of the Presidential limousine." The Assassination Records Review Board said it "is perhaps the single most important assassination record." According to Vincent Bugliosi, the film was "originally touted by the vast majority of conspiracy theorists as incontrovertible proof of [a] conspiracy" but is now believed by many assassination researchers to be a "sophisticated forgery". Among those who believe the Zapruder film has been altered are John Costella, James H. Fetzer, David Lifton, David Mantik, Jack White, Noel Twyman, and Harrison Livingstone, who has called it "the biggest hoax of the twentieth century". In 1996 Roland Zavada, a former product engineer for Kodak, was requested by the Assassination Records Review Board to undertake a thorough technical study of the Zapruder Film. Zavada concluded that there was no detectable evidence of manipulation or image alteration on the Zapruder in-camera original.
David Lifton wrote that the Zapruder film was in the possession of the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center, the night of the assassination. Jack White, researcher and photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, claimed that there are anomalies in the Zapruder film, including an "unnatural jerkiness of movement or change of focus ... in certain frame sequences."
In his 1981 book Best Evidence, David Lifton presented the thesis that President Kennedy’s body (i.e., the "best evidence") had been altered between the Dallas hospital and the autopsy site at Bethesda for the purposes of creating erroneous conclusions about the number and direction of the shots.
The Warren Commission found that the shots which killed Kennedy and wounded Connally were fired from the Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter Italian rifle owned by Oswald. Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman both initially identified the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository as a 7.65 Mauser. Weitzman signed an affidavit the following day describing the weapon as a "7.65 Mauser bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it". Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig claimed that he saw "7.65 Mauser" stamped on the barrel of the weapon.
Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the press that the weapon found in the Book Depository was a 7.65 Mauser, and this was reported by the media. But investigators later identified the rifle as a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher Carcano.  According to Mark Lane:
The strongest element in the case against Lee Harvey Oswald was the Warren Commission's conclusion that his rifle had been found on the 6th floor of the Book Depository building. Yet Oswald never owned a 7.65 Mauser. When the FBI later reported that Oswald had purchased only a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher-Carcano, the weapon at police headquarters in Dallas miraculously changed its size, its make and its nationality. The Warren Commission concluded that a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano, not a 7.65 German Mauser, had been discovered by the Dallas deputies.
In Matrix for Assassination, author Richard Gilbride suggested that both weapons were involved and that Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz and Lieutenant J. Carl Day might have been conspirators.
Addressing "speculation and rumors", the Warren Commission identified Weitzman as "the original source of the speculation that the rifle was a Mauser" and stated that "[p]olice laboratory technicians subsequently arrived and correctly identified the weapon as a 6.5 Italian rifle."
The Warren Commission determined that three bullets were fired at Kennedy. One of the three bullets missed the vehicle entirely; another bullet hit Kennedy, passed through his body and then struck Governor John Connally; and the third bullet was the fatal head shot to the President. Some claim that the bullet that passed through President Kennedy’s body before striking Governor Connally—dubbed by critics of the Commission as the "magic bullet"—was missing too little mass to account for the total weight of bullet fragments later found by the doctors who operated on Connally. Those making this claim included Connally’s chief surgeon, Dr. Robert Shaw, as well as two of the Kennedy autopsy surgeons, Commander James Humes, and Lt. Colonel Pierre Finck. However, in the book Six Seconds in Dallas, author Josiah Thompson took issue with this claim. Thompson added up the weight of the bullet fragments listed in the doctor reports and concluded that their total weight "could" have been less than the mass missing from the bullet.
With Connally's death in 1993, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and the Assassination Archives and Research Center petitioned Attorney General Janet Reno to recover the remaining bullet fragments from Connally's body, contending that the fragments would disprove the Warren Commission's single-bullet, single-gunman conclusion. The Justice Department replied that it "...would have no legal authority to recover the fragments unless Connally's family gave [it] permission." Connally's family refused permission.
The Warren Commission concluded that "three shots were fired [from the Texas School Book Depository] in a time period ranging from approximately 4.8 to in excess of 7 seconds." Some assassination researchers, including Anthony Summers, dispute the Commission's findings. They point to evidence that brings into question the number of shots fired, the origin of the shots, and the ability of Oswald to accurately fire three shots in a short amount of time. These researchers suggest the involvement of multiple gunmen.
Governor Connally, seated in the limousine's jump seat directly in front of Kennedy, testified before the Warren Commission that "...the thought immediately passed through my mind that there were either two or three people involved, or more, in this—or someone was shooting with an automatic rifle."
Based on the "consensus among the witnesses at the scene" and "in particular the three spent cartridges", the Warren Commission determined that "the preponderance of the evidence indicated that three shots were fired". In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded there were four shots, one coming from the direction of the grassy knoll.
The Warren Commission, and later the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded that one of the shots hit President Kennedy in "the back of his neck", exited his throat, continued on to strike Governor Connally in the back, exited Connally's chest, shattered his right wrist, and embedded itself in his left thigh. This conclusion came to be known as the "single bullet theory".
Mary Moorman said in a TV interview immediately after the assassination that there were three or four shots close together, that shots were still being fired after she took her photograph of the President being hit, and that she was in the line of fire. In 1967, Josiah Thompson concluded that four shots were fired in Dealey Plaza, with one wounding Connally and three hitting Kennedy.
The Warren Commission concluded that all of the shots fired at President Kennedy originated from the sixth-floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. The Commission based its conclusion on the "cumulative evidence of eyewitnesses, firearms and ballistic experts and medical authorities," including onsite testing, as well as analysis of films and photographs conducted by the FBI and Secret Service.
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations agreed to publish a report from Warren Commission critic Robert Groden, in which he named "nearly [two] dozen suspected firing points in Dealey Plaza". These sites included multiple locations in or on the roof of the Texas School Book Depository, the Dal-Tex Building, and the Dallas County Records Building, as well as the railroad overpass, a storm drain located along the north curb of Elm street, and various spots near the "grassy knoll". Josiah Thompson concluded that the shots fired on the motorcade came from three locations: the Texas School Book Depository, the area of the grassy knoll, and the Dal-Tex Building.
According to some assassination researchers, the grassy knoll was identified by the majority of witnesses as the area from where shots were fired. In March 1965, Harold Feldman wrote that there were 121 witnesses to the assassination with 51 indicating that the shots that killed Kennedy came from the area of the grassy knoll. In 1967, Josiah Thompson examined the statements of 64 witnesses and found that 33 of them thought that the shots emanated from the grassy knoll.
In 1966, Esquire magazine credited Feldman with "advanc[ing] the theory that there were two assassins: one on the grassy knoll and one in the Book Depository." Jim Marrs also wrote that the weight of evidence suggested shots came from both the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository.
Lee Bowers operated a railroad tower that overlooked the parking lot on the north side of the grassy knoll. He reported that he saw two men behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll before the shooting. The men did not appear to be acting together and did not appear to be doing anything suspicious. After the shooting, Bowers said that one of the men remained behind the fence. Bowers said that he lost track of the second man whose clothing blended into the foliage. When interviewed by Mark Lane, Bowers noted that he saw something that attracted his attention, either a flash of light, or maybe smoke, from the knoll, leading him to believe "something out of the ordinary" had occurred there. Bowers told Lane he heard three shots, the last two in quick succession. Bowers opined that they could not have come from the same rifle.
William and Gayle Newman, two of the closest bystanders to the assassination, were standing at the curb on the north side of Elm St. with their two children. Mr. Newman was interviewed by Dallas television station WFAA-TV just twenty minutes after the assassination. He said that the shot that hit President Kennedy in the head was fired from behind him (from the knoll).
Jesse Price was the building engineer for the Terminal Annex Building, located across from the Texas School Book Depository on the opposite side of Dealey Plaza. Price viewed the presidential motorcade from the Terminal Annex Building's roof. In an interview with Mark Lane, Price said that he believed the shots came from "just behind the picket fence where it joins the underpass." He claimed to have seen a "...man run towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots."
Several conspiracy theories posit that at least one shooter was located in the Dal-Tex Building, which is located across the street from the Texas School Book Depository. According to L. Fletcher Prouty, the physical location of James Tague when he was injured by a bullet fragment is not consistent with the trajectory of a missed shot from the Texas School Book Depository, leading Prouty to theorize that Tague was instead wounded by a missed shot from the second floor of the Dal-Tex Building.
Some assassination researchers claim that FBI photographs of the presidential limousine show a bullet hole in its windshield above the rear-view mirror, and a crack in the windshield itself. When Robert Groden, author of The Killing of a President, asked for an explanation, the FBI responded that what Groden thought was a bullet hole "occurred prior to Dallas". A researcher later found a Ford Motor employee who had helped build a new windshield for the car, who said he and his co-workers had been told to destroy the old windshield, which had a bullet hole from the front.
Film and photographic evidence of the assassination have led viewers to different conclusions regarding the origin of the shots. In the Zapruder film, the President's head and upper torso move backwards after the last, fatal shot—an indication that the bullet was fired from the front. However, close inspection of frames 312 and 313 show Kennedy's head moving forward by as much as 1.9 inches, before his head moves backwards. Some, including Robert Groden and Cyril Wecht, state that the film is evidence of a "double hit" to Kennedy's head. Wecht believes that the film depicts the President's head being "struck twice in a synchronized fashion, from the rear and the right front side." A further theory says that it was the braking of the car by the driver William Greer which caused Kennedy's head to move forward as a frontal shot was fired. Paul Chambers argues that Frame Z313 shows multiple jets of blood, bone and brain matter exiting just above Kennedy's right ear and claims this is consistent with a high velocity (approx. 4,000 ft/sec) rifle rather than the medium velocity (2,000 ft/sec) Mannlicher-Carcano. Chambers also claims that analysis of the Zapruder film at normal speed shows the President's limousine comes to a complete stop moments before the final fatal head shot.
According to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, a Dictabelt recording of the Dallas Police Department radio dispatch transmissions from November 22, 1963, was analyzed to "resolve questions concerning the number, timing, and origin of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza". The Committee concluded that the source of the recording was from an open microphone on the motorcycle of H.B. McLain escorting the motorcade and that "the scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy."
The acoustical analysis firm hired by the Committee recommended that the Committee conduct an acoustical reconstruction of the assassination in Dealey Plaza to determine if any of the six impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were fired from the Texas School Book Depository or the grassy knoll. The reconstruction would entail firing from two locations in Dealey Plaza—the depository and the knoll—at particular target locations and recording the sounds through numerous microphones. The purpose was to determine if the sequences of impulses recorded during the reconstruction would match any of those on the dispatch tape. If so, it would be possible to determine if the impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were caused by shots fired during the assassination from shooter locations in the depository and on the knoll.
In 1978, at the behest of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, members of the Dallas Police Pistol Team participated in an acoustical reconstruction by firing both rifles and pistols from the locations selected by the researchers. During the acoustical reconstruction, the Dallas Police marksmen had no difficulty hitting the targets. The House Select Committee's firearms experts "...testified that given the distance and angle from the sixth floor window to the location of the President's limousine, it would have been easier to use the open iron sights." The Warren Commission tests had been carried out on the assumption that Oswald, who they and the Committee concluded fired the shots, used the telescopic sight.
An article which appeared in Science & Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain's Forensic Science Society, found there was a 96% certainty, based on analysis of audio recordings made during the assassination, that a shot was fired from "the grassy knoll" in front of and to the right of the President's limousine.
The acoustical evidence has since been discredited. Officer H.B. McLain, from whose motorcycle radio the HSCA acoustic experts said the Dictabelt evidence came, has repeatedly stated that he was not yet in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination. McLain asked the Committee, "‘If it was my radio on my motorcycle, why did it not record the revving up at high speed plus my siren when we immediately took off for Parkland Hospital?’”
In 1982, a panel of twelve scientists appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, including Nobel laureates Norman Ramsey and Luis Alvarez, unanimously concluded that the acoustic evidence submitted to the HSCA was "seriously flawed", was recorded after the President had been shot, and did not indicate additional gunshots. Their conclusions were later published in the journal Science.
In a 2001 article in the journal Science & Justice, D.B. Thomas wrote that the NAS investigation was itself flawed. He concluded with a 96.3 percent certainty that there were at least two gunmen firing at President Kennedy and that at least one shot came from the grassy knoll. In 2005, Thomas' conclusions were rebutted in the same journal. Ralph Linsker and several members of the original NAS team reanalyzed the timings of the recordings and reaffirmed the earlier conclusion of the NAS report that the alleged shot sounds were recorded approximately one minute after the assassination. In 2010, D.B. Thomas challenged in a book the 2005 Science & Justice article and restated his conclusion that there were at least two gunmen.
Some assassination researchers have pointed to testimony or medical evidence suggesting that at least one of the shots fired at President Kennedy came from a location other than the Book Depository. Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent seated next to the driver in the presidential limousine, testified that he saw a 5-inch-diameter (130 mm) hole in the back right-hand side of the President's head. Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who sheltered the President with his body on the way to the hospital, said: "The right rear portion of his head was missing." Later, in a National Geographic Channel documentary, Hill described the wound as a "gaping hole above his right ear, about the size of my palm."
Robert McClelland, one of the Parkland Hospital doctors who attended to Kennedy, testified to the Warren Commission that the back right part of Kennedy's head was blown out, with posterior cerebral tissue and some cerebellar tissue missing.
Some critics skeptical of the official "single bullet theory" state that the trajectory of the bullet, which hit Kennedy above the right shoulder blade and passed through his neck (according to the autopsy), would have had to change course to pass through Connally's rib cage and wrist.[page needed] Kennedy's death certificate, signed by his personal physician Dr. George Burkley, locates the bullet at the third thoracic vertebra—which some claim is too low to have exited his throat. Moreover, the bullet was traveling downward, since the shooter was in a sixth floor window. The autopsy descriptive sheet displays a diagram of Kennedy's body with the same low placement at the third thoracic vertebra. The hole in back of Kennedy's shirt and jacket are also claimed to support a wound too low to be consistent with the "single bullet theory".[better source needed][better source needed]
On the day of the assassination, Nellie Connally was seated in the presidential car next to her husband, Governor John Connally. In her book From Love Field: Our Final Hours, Nellie Connally said that she believed that her husband was hit by a bullet that was separate from the two that hit Kennedy.
There is conflicting testimony about the autopsy performed on Kennedy's body, particularly as to when the examination of his brain took place, who was present, and whether or not the photos submitted as evidence are the same as those taken during the examination. Douglas Horne, the Assassination Record Review Board's chief analyst for military records, said he was "90 to 95% certain" that the photographs in the National Archives are not of President Kennedy's brain. Supporting Horne was Dr. Gary Aguilar, who stated: "According to Horne’s findings, the second brain—which showed an exit wound in the front—allegedly replaced Kennedy's real brain—which revealed much greater damage to the rear, consistent with an exit wound and thus evidence of a shot from the front."
In his book JFK and the Unspeakable, James Douglass cites autopsy doctor Pierre Finck's testimony at the trial of Clay Shaw as evidence that Finck was "...a reluctant witness to the military control over the doctors' examination of the president's body".
The Warren Commission examined the capabilities of the Carcano rifle and ammunition, as well as Oswald's military training and post-military experience, and determined that Oswald had the ability to fire three shots within a time span of 4.8 to 5.6 seconds. According to their report, an army specialist using Oswald's rifle was able to duplicate the feat and even improved on the time. The report also states that the Army Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch test fired Oswald's rifle 47 times and found that it was "quite accurate", comparing it to the accuracy of an M-14 rifle. Also contained in the Commission report is testimony by Marine Corps Major Eugene Anderson confirming that Oswald's military records show that he qualified as "sharpshooter" in 1956.
But this is confronted with more detailed record of his shooting abilities. According to official Marine Corps records Oswald was tested in shooting, scoring 212 in December 1956 (slightly above the minimum for qualification as a sharpshooter—the intermediate category), but in May 1959 scoring only 191 (barely earning the lower designation of marksman—the lowest category of skilled shooter, but still above undesignated shooters). He never approached the highest marksmanship category in the Marine Corps—the Expert.
Despite Oswald's confirmed marksmanship in the USMC, conspiracy theorists such as Walt Brown and authors such as Richard H. Popkin contend that Oswald was a notoriously poor shot, that his rifle was inaccurate, and that no one has ever been able to duplicate his ability to fire three shots within the time frame given by the Warren Commission. FBI marksman Robert Frazier, who tested the rifle in two sets of tests, testified to the Warren Commission that he could not reach the 5.6 second mark for firing three shots and that all his shots fired five inches high and five inches to the right due to an uncorrectable deficiency in the telescopic sight.
Assassination researchers differ as to the role of Oswald in the assassination of President Kennedy. Many believe that Oswald was an uninvolved patsy, while others believe he was actively involved in a plot. Oswald's ability to move to Russia, then return as an avowed communist to the United States with help from the State Department—who gave him a repatriation loan of $435.71—has led theorists to speculate that he was working for the CIA and/or the FBI.
Oswald contacted the FBI twice in 1963. The first occasion was on August 9 when Oswald was arrested in New Orleans for disturbing the peace. After his arrest, Oswald asked to speak with an FBI agent. Agent John Quigley arrived and spent over an hour talking to Oswald. Also, Oswald visited the Dallas FBI office in November 1963, about 2 to 3 weeks before the assassination, and attempted to deliver a note to Special Agent James Hosty.
Jim and Elsie Wilcott, former husband and wife employees of the Tokyo CIA station, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1978: "It was common knowledge in the Tokyo CIA station that Oswald worked for the agency.... Right after the President was killed, people in the Tokyo station were talking openly about Oswald having gone to Russia for the CIA. Everyone was wondering how the agency was going to be able to keep the lid on Oswald. But I guess they did."
Marguerite Oswald [Lee Oswald's mother] "...frequently expressed the opinion that her son was recruited by an agency of the U.S. Government and sent to Russia in 1959."
New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, who in 1967 brought Clay Shaw to trial for the assassination of President Kennedy, stated in the documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, "[Oswald] was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and was obviously drawn into a scapegoat situation and made to believe ultimately that he was penetrating the assassination. And then when the time came, they took the scapegoat—the man who thought he was working for the United States government—and killed him real quick. And then the machinery, disinformation machinery, started turning and they started making a villain out of a man who genuinely was probably a hero."
James Botelho, a former roommate of Oswald who would later become a California judge, stated in an interview with Mark Lane, "Oswald, it was said, was the only Marine ever to defect from his country to another country, a Communist country, during peacetime.... When the Marine Corps and American intelligence decided not to probe the reasons for the 'defection', I knew then what I know now: Oswald was on an assignment in Russia for American intelligence."
Senator Richard Schweiker, who was a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, stated: "We do know Oswald had intelligence connections. Everywhere you look with him, there're fingerprints of intelligence." Richard Sprague, interim staff director and chief counsel to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, said, "If he had it to do over again, he would begin his investigation of the Kennedy assassination by probing Oswald's ties to the Central Intelligence Agency." In 2003, Robert Blakey, staff director and chief counsel for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, stated: "I no longer believe that we were able to conduct an appropriate investigation of the [Central Intelligence] Agency and its relationship to Oswald."
According to Richard Buyer, Oswald never fired a shot at the President. James W. Douglass described Oswald as "a questioning, dissenting CIA operative who had become a security risk" and "the ideal scapegoat". According to Josiah Thompson, Oswald was in the Texas School Book Depository during the assassination, but it is "quite likely" he was not the shooter on the sixth floor.
In a 2013 interview with CBS journalist Charlie Rose, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said that his father Robert F. Kennedy was "fairly convinced" that others besides Oswald were involved in the assassination.
In addition to Oswald, Jerome Kroth has named 26 people as "Possible Assassins In Dealey Plaza". They include: Orlando Bosch, James Files, Desmond Fitzgerald, Charles Harrelson, Gerry Hemming, Chauncey Holt, Howard Hunt, Charles Nicoletti, Charles Rogers, Johnny Roselli, Lucien Sarti, and Frank Sturgis.
Vincent Bugliosi provides a "partial list of assassins ... whom one or more conspiracy theorists have actually named and identified as having fired a weapon at Kennedy" in his book, Reclaiming History.
The three tramps are three men photographed by several Dallas-area newspapers under police escort near the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination. Since the mid-1960s, various allegations have been made about the identities of the men and their involvement in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Records released by the Dallas Police Department in 1989 identified the men as Gus Abrams, Harold Doyle, and John Gedney.
The theory that former CIA agent and Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt was a participant in the assassination of Kennedy garnered much publicity from 1978 to 2000. In 1981, he won a libel judgment against Liberty Lobby's paper The Spotlight, which in 1978 printed an allegation by Victor Marchetti suggesting Hunt's involvement in a conspiracy; the libel award was thrown out on appeal and the newspaper was successfully defended by Mark Lane in a second trial. Former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin indicated in 1999 that Hunt was made part of a fabricated conspiracy theory disseminated by a Soviet "active measures" program designed to discredit the CIA and the United States. After his death in 2007, an audio-taped "deathbed confession" in which Hunt claimed knowledge of a conspiracy was released by his sons; the authenticity of the confession was met with some skepticism.[clarification needed]
In 2012, journalist Jefferson Morley reported that "...the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives contains 366 pages of CIA documents on E. Howard Hunt that have never been made public."
Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit has been named in some conspiracy theories as a renegade CIA operative sent to silence Oswald and as the "badge man" assassin on the grassy knoll. According to some Warren Commission critics, Oswald was set up to be killed by Tippit, but Tippit was killed by Oswald before he could carry out his assignment. Other critics doubt that Tippit was killed by Oswald and assert he was shot by other conspirators. (See section below.) Some critics have alleged that Tippit was associated with organized crime or right-wing politics.
According to the Warren Commission, the publication of a full-page, paid advertisement critical of Kennedy in the November 22, 1963, Dallas Morning News, which was signed by "The American Fact-Finding Committee" and noted Bernard Weissman as its chairman, was investigated to determine whether any members of the group claiming responsibility for it were connected to Oswald or to the assassination. The Commission stated that "The American Fact-Finding Committee" was a fictitious sponsoring organization and that there was no evidence linking the four men responsible for the genesis of the ad with either Oswald or Ruby, or to a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. During the Commission's hearings, Mark Lane testified that an informant whom he refused to name told him that Weismann had met with Tippit and Ruby eight days before the assassination.[a] In Rush to Judgment, Lane disputed the government's findings and indicated that the source of his information was reporter Thayer Waldo of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald "...killed Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit in an apparent attempt to escape." The evidence that formed the basis for this conclusion was: "(1) two eyewitnesses who heard the shots and saw the shooting of Dallas Police Patrolman J. D. Tippit and seven eyewitnesses who saw the flight of the gunman with revolver in hand positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the man they saw fire the shots or flee from the scene, (2) the cartridge cases found near the scene of the shooting were fired from the revolver in the possession of Oswald at the time of his arrest, to the exclusion of all other weapons, (3) the revolver in Oswald's possession at the time of his arrest was purchased by and belonged to Oswald, and (4) Oswald's jacket was found along the path of flight taken by the gunman as he fled from the scene of the killing."
Some researchers have alleged that the murder of Officer Tippit was part of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Jim Marrs hypothesized that "the slaying of Officer J. D. Tippit may have played some part in [a] scheme to have Oswald killed, perhaps to eliminate co-conspirator Tippit or simply to anger Dallas police and cause itchy trigger fingers." Researcher James Douglass said that "...the killing of [Tippit] helped motivate the Dallas police to kill an armed Oswald in the Texas Theater, which would have disposed of the scapegoat before he could protest his being framed." Harold Weisberg offered a simpler explanation: "Immediately, the [flimsy] police case [against Oswald] required a willingness to believe. This was proved by affixing to Oswald the opprobrious epithet of 'cop-killer.'" Jim Garrison alleged that evidence was altered to frame Oswald, stating: "If Oswald was innocent of the Tippit murder the foundation of the government's case against him collapsed."
Some critics doubt that Tippit was killed by Oswald and assert he was shot by other conspirators. They allege discrepancies in witness testimony and physical evidence which they feel call into question the Commission's conclusions regarding the murder of Tippit. According to Jim Marrs, Oswald's guilt in the assassination of Kennedy is placed in question by the presence of "a growing body of evidence to suggest that [he] did not kill Tippit". Others say that multiple men were directly involved in Tippit's killing. Conspiracy researcher Kenn Thomas has alleged that the Warren Commission omitted testimony and evidence that two men shot Tippit and that one left the scene in a car.
William Alexander—the Dallas assistant district attorney who recommended that Oswald be charged with the Kennedy and Tippit murders—later became skeptical of the Warren Commission's version of the Tippit murder. He stated that the Commission's conclusions on Oswald's movements "don't add up," and that "certainly [Oswald] may have had accomplices."
According to Brian McKenna's review of Henry Hurt's book, Reasonable Doubt, Hurt reported that "Tippit may have been killed because he impregnated the wife of another man" and that Dallas police officers lied and altered evidence to set up Oswald to save Tippit's reputation.
The Warren Commission identified Helen Markham and Domingo Benavides as two witnesses who actually saw the shooting. Conspiracy theorist Richard Belzer criticized the Commission for, in his description, "relying" on the testimony of Markham whom he described as "imaginative". Jim Marrs also took issue with Markham's testimony, stating that her "credibility ... was strained to the breaking point". Joseph Ball, senior counsel to the Commission, referred to Markham's testimony as "full of mistakes," characterizing her as an "utter screwball." The Warren Commission addressed concerns regarding Markham's reliability as a witness and concluded: "However, even in the absence of Mrs. Markham's testimony, there is ample evidence to identify Oswald as the killer of Tippit."
Domingo Benavides initially said that he did not think he could identify Tippit's assailant and was never asked to view a police lineup, even though he was the person closest to the killing. Benavides later testified that the killer resembled pictures he had seen of Oswald. Other witnesses were taken to police lineups. However, critics have questioned these lineups in that they consisted of people who looked very different from Oswald.
Additionally, witnesses who did not appear before the Commission identified an assailant who was not Oswald. Acquilla Clemons saw two men near Tippit’s car just before the shooting. After the shooting, she ran outside of her house and saw a man with a gun whom she described as "kind of heavy." He waved to the second man, urging him to "go on." Frank Wright emerged from his home and observed the scene seconds after the shooting. He described a man standing by Tippit’s body who had on a long coat and who ran to a parked car and drove away.
Critics have questioned whether the cartridge cases recovered from the scene were the same as those that were subsequently entered into evidence. Two of the cases were recovered by witness Domingo Benavides and turned over to police officer J.M. Poe. Poe told the FBI that he marked the shells with his own initials, "J.M.P." to identify them. Sergeant Gerald Hill later testified to the Warren Commission that it was he who had ordered police officer Poe to mark the shells. However, Poe's initials were not found on the shells produced by the FBI six months later.Testifying before the Warren Commission, Poe said that although he recalled marking the cases, he "couldn’t swear to it." The identification of the cases at the crime scene raises more questions. Sergeant Gerald Hill examined one of the shells and radioed the police dispatcher, saying: "The shell at the scene indicates that the suspect is armed with an automatic .38 rather than a pistol." However, Oswald was reportedly arrested carrying a non-automatic .38 Special revolver.
The Warren Commission investigated Oswald's movements between the time of the assassination and the shooting of Tippit, to ascertain whether Oswald might have had an accomplice who helped him flee the Book Depository. The Commission concluded "...through the testimony of seven witnesses [that] Oswald was always alone." According to their final report, Oswald was seen by his housekeeper leaving his rooming house shortly after 1:00 pm and had enough time to travel nine-tenths of a mile (1.4 km) to the scene where Tippit was killed at 1:16 pm.[b]
Some Warren Commission critics believe that Oswald did not have enough time to get from his house to the scene where Tippit was killed. The Commission’s own test and estimation of Oswald’s walking speed demonstrated that one of the longer routes to the Tippit shooting scene took 17 minutes and 45 seconds to walk. No witness ever surfaced who saw Oswald walk from his rooming house to the murder scene.
Conspiracy researcher Robert Groden believes that Tippit's murder may have occurred earlier than the time given in the Warren Report.  He notes that the Commission established the time of the shooting as 1:16 pm from police tapes that logged Domingo Benavides' use of the radio in Tippit's car. However, Benavides testified that he did not approach the car until "a few minutes" after the shooting, because he was afraid that the gunman might return. He was assisted in using the radio by witness T. F. Bowley who testified to Dallas police that at the time he arrived to help, "several people were at the scene," and that the time was 1:10 pm.
Witness Helen Markham initially told the FBI that the shooting occurred "possibly around 1:30 pm," but she later told the Warren Commission: "I wouldn't be afraid to bet it wasn't 6 or 7 minutes after 1." In an unpublished manuscript titled When They Kill a President, Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig stated that when he heard the news that Tippit had been shot, he noted that the time was 1:06 pm. However, in a later statement to the press, Craig seemed confused about the time of the shooting.
Warren "Butch" Burroughs, who ran the concession stand at the Texas Theater where Oswald was arrested, told author James Douglass in 2007 that Oswald came into the theater between 1:00 and 1:07 pm, which if true would make Oswald's alleged 1:16 pm shooting of Officer J. D. Tippit impossible. This was a claim that Burroughs had made earlier in the documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy.
Some conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination have focused on witnesses to the assassination who have not been identified, or who have not identified themselves, despite the media attention that the Kennedy assassination has received.
The so-called "umbrella man" was one of the closest bystanders to the president when he was first struck by a bullet. The "umbrella man" has become the subject of conspiracy theories after footage of the assassination showed him holding an open umbrella as the Kennedy motorcade passed, despite the fact that it was not raining at the time. One conspiracy theory, proposed by assassination researcher Robert Cutler, suggests that a dart with a paralyzing agent could have been fired from the umbrella, disabling Kennedy and making him a "sitting duck" for an assassination. (In 1975, CIA weapons developer Charles Senseney told the Senate Intelligence Committee that such an umbrella weapon was in the hands of the CIA in 1963.) A more prevalent conspiracy theory holds that the umbrella could have been used to provide visual signals to hidden gunmen.
In 1978, a man named, Louie Steven Witt, came forward and identified himself as the "umbrella man". Testifying before the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, Witt stated he brought the umbrella to heckle Kennedy and protest the appeasement policies of the president's father, Joseph Kennedy. He added: "I think if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, I would be No. 1 in that position, without even a close runner-up."
An individual whose identity has yet to be revealed is the so-called "dark complected man". He can be seen in several photographs, taken seconds after the assassination, sitting on the sidewalk next to the "umbrella man" on the north side of Elm Street. The complexion of the man has led to conspiracy theories suggesting possible Cuban involvement in the assassination of Kennedy. Louie Steven Witt (who identified himself as the "umbrella man") denied any knowledge of who this other individual was.
Some conspiracy theories focus on individuals that it is claimed can be seen in photographs of the assassination. Both "badge man" and "black dog man" have been suggested as possible assassins of President Kennedy.
"Badge man" and "tin hat man" are figures on the grassy knoll whom it is alleged can be seen in the Mary Moorman photo, taken approximately one-sixth of a second after President Kennedy was struck with the fatal head wound. The figures were first discovered by researchers Jack White and Gary Mack and are discussed in a 1988 documentary called The Men Who Killed Kennedy, where it is alleged a third figure can also be seen on the grassy knoll, possibly the eyewitness Gordon Arnold. The "badge man" figure—so called as he appears to be wearing a uniform similar to that worn by a policeman—helped fuel conspiracy theories linking Dallas Police officers, or someone impersonating a police officer, to the assassination.
Critics of the "badge man" theory argue that the figures are merely pareidolias, possibly the result of shadows or sunlight reflecting off a glass bottle. Critics also reject the "badge man" theory on the basis that the "figures" in the image are too small to be of adult size. In an article titled "The Myth of Badgeman," the website JFKmurdersolved argues Arnold cannot be the third figure, as he appears the same size as the other two despite being at least 15 feet closer to the camera. Dale K. Myers also argues against the "badge man" theory arguing that, if he were real, badge man's line of sight would have been blocked by the L-shaped concrete retaining wall at the moment of the fatal head shot. Myers also argues that Lee Bowers’ eyewitness account proves that no one was standing in the area described. However, the "badge man" figure would corroborate eyewitness testimony from Gordon Arnold who stated that following the assassination a police officer confiscated camera film from him on the grassy knoll.
Another "figure" that has been the subject of conspiracy is the so-called "black dog man" figure who can be seen at the corner of a retaining wall in the Willis and Betzner photo of the assassination. In an interview, Marilyn Sitzman told Josiah Thompson that she saw a young black couple who were eating lunch and drinking Cokes on a bench behind the retaining wall and, therefore, it is possible that the "black dog man" figure is actually the black woman and her child. If so, the woman has never come forward to identity herself.
In The Killing of A President Robert Groden argues that the "black dog man" figure can be seen in a pyracantha bush in frame 413 of the Zapruder film. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that a head of an individual could be seen but that this individual was situated in front of, rather than behind the bushes. Bill Miller argues that this individual is actually the eye-witness Emmett Hudson.
According to some researchers, conspiracy theorists consider four or five groups, alone or in combination, to be the primary suspects in the assassination of Kennedy: the CIA, the military-industrial complex, organized crime, the government of Cuba, and Cuban exiles. Other domestic individuals, groups, or organizations implicated in various conspiracy theories include Lyndon Johnson, George H. W. Bush, Sam Giancana, J. Edgar Hoover, Earl Warren, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the John Birch Society, and far-right wealthy Texans. Some other alleged foreign conspirators include Fidel Castro, the KGB and Nikita Krushchev, Aristotle Onassis, the government of South Vietnam, and international drug lords, including a French heroin syndicate.
Soon after the assassination of President Kennedy, Oswald's activities in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the spring and summer of 1963, came under scrutiny. Three days after the assassination, on November 25, 1963, New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews told the FBI that he received a telephone call from a man named Clay Bertrand, on the day of the assassination, asking him to defend Oswald. Andrews would later repeat this claim in testimony to the Warren Commission.
Also, in late November 1963, an employee of New Orleans private investigator Guy Banister named Jack Martin began making accusations that fellow Banister employee David Ferrie was involved in the JFK assassination. Martin told police that Ferrie "...was supposed to have been the getaway pilot in the assassination." He said that Ferrie had outlined plans to kill Kennedy and that Ferrie might have taught Oswald how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight. Martin claimed that Ferrie had known Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol, and that he had seen a photograph, at Ferrie's home, of Oswald in a Civil Air Patrol group. Ferrie denied any association with Oswald.
It was later discovered that Ferrie had attended Civil Air Patrol meetings in New Orleans in the 1950s that were also attended by a teenage Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1993, the PBS television program Frontline obtained a photograph taken in 1955 (eight years before the assassination) showing Oswald and Ferrie at a Civil Air Patrol cookout with other C.A.P. cadets. Whether Oswald's and Ferrie's association in the Civil Air Patrol in 1955 is relevant to their later possible association in 1963 is a subject of debate. However, it is known that Texas oilman D. Harold Byrd founded the Civil Air Patrol in 1941 and owned the Texas School Book Depository building, which hired Oswald just five weeks before John F. Kennedy's assassination.
According to several witnesses, in 1963, both Ferrie and Banister were working for lawyer G. Wray Gill on behalf of Gill's client, New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, in an attempt to block Marcello's deportation to Guatemala. On the afternoon of November 22, 1963—the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the day Marcello was acquitted in his deportation case—New Orleans private investigator Guy Banister and his employee, Jack Martin, were drinking together at a local bar. On their return to Banister's office, the two men got into a heated argument. According to Martin, Banister said something to which Martin replied, "What are you going to do—kill me like you all did Kennedy?" Banister drew his .357 magnum revolver and pistol-whipped Martin several times. Martin, badly injured, went by ambulance to Charity Hospital.
Earlier, in the spring of 1963, Oswald had written to the New York City headquarters of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, proposing to rent "...a small office at my own expense for the purpose of forming a FPCC branch here in New Orleans." As the sole member of the New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Oswald ordered 1,000 leaflets with the heading, "Hands Off Cuba" from a local printer. On August 16, 1963, Oswald passed out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets in front of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans.
One of Oswald's leaflets had the address "544 Camp Street" hand-stamped on it, apparently by Oswald himself. The address was in the "Newman Building" which, from October 1961 to February 1962, housed the militant anti-Castro group, the Cuban Revolutionary Council. Around the corner but located in the same building, with a different entrance, was the address 531 Lafayette Street—the address of "Guy Banister Associates", the private detective agency run by Guy Banister. Banister's office was involved in anti-Castro and private investigative activities in the New Orleans area. (A CIA file indicated that in September 1960, the CIA had considered "...using Guy Banister Associates for the collection of foreign intelligence, but ultimately decided against it.")
In the late-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigated the possible relationship of Oswald to Banister's office. While the committee was unable to interview Guy Banister (who died in 1964), the committee did interview his brother Ross Banister. Ross "...told the committee that his brother had mentioned seeing Oswald hand out Fair Play for Cuba literature on one occasion. Ross theorized that Oswald had used the 544 Camp Street address on his literature to embarrass Guy."
Guy Banister's secretary, Delphine Roberts, would later tell author Anthony Summers that she saw Oswald at Banister's office, and that he filled out one of Banister's "agent" application forms. She said, "Oswald came back a number of times. He seemed to be on familiar terms with Banister and with the office." The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated Roberts' claims and said that "because of contradictions in Roberts' statements to the committee and lack of independent corroboration of many of her statements, the reliability of her statements could not be determined."
In 1966, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison began an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Garrison's investigation led him to conclude that a group of right-wing extremists, including David Ferrie and Guy Banister, were involved with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Garrison would later claim that the motive for the assassination was anger over Kennedy's attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam. Garrison also came to believe that New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw was part of the conspiracy and that Clay Shaw used the pseudonym "Clay Bertrand". Garrison further believed that Shaw, Banister, and Ferrie conspired to set up Oswald as a patsy in the JFK assassination. On March 1, 1967, Garrison arrested and charged Shaw with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy. On January 29, 1969, Clay Shaw was brought to trial on these charges, and the jury found him not guilty.
In 2003, Judyth Vary Baker—whose employment records show that she worked at the Reily Coffee Company in New Orleans at the same time Oswald did—appeared in an episode of Nigel Turner's documentary television series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Baker claimed that in 1963 she was recruited by Dr. Canute Michaelson to work with Dr. Alton Ochsner and Dr. Mary Sherman on a clandestine CIA project to develop a biological weapon that could be used to assassinate Fidel Castro. According to Baker, she and Oswald were hired by Reily in the spring of 1963 as a "cover" for the operation. Baker further claimed that she and Oswald began an affair, and that later Oswald told her about Merida, Mexico—a city where he suggested they might begin their lives over again. According to John McAdams, Baker presents a "classic case of pushing the limits of plausibility too far." Others on both sides of the research community have widely dismissed her claims. However, other researchers, including Jim Marrs and James Fetzer, have concluded the opposite—that Baker's claims are credible.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that "[t]here was no indication in Oswald's CIA file that he had ever had contact with the Agency" and concluded that the CIA was not involved in the assassination of Kennedy.
Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, wrote that investigators were pressured not to look into the relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and the CIA. He stated that CIA agent David Atlee Phillips, using the pseudonym "Maurice Bishop", was involved with Oswald prior to the Kennedy assassination in connection with anti-Castro Cuban groups.
In 1995, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and National Security Agency executive assistant John M. Newman published evidence that both the CIA and FBI deliberately tampered with their files on Lee Harvey Oswald both before and after the assassination. Furthermore, he found that both agencies withheld information that might have alerted authorities in Dallas that Oswald posed a potential threat to the President. Subsequently, Newman expressed a belief that CIA chief of counter-intelligence James Angleton was probably the key figure in the assassination. According to Newman, only Angleton "had the access, the authority, and the diabolically ingenious mind to manage this sophisticated plot." However, Newman surmised that the cover operation was not under James Angleton, but under Allen Dulles (the former CIA director, and later Warren Commission member, who had been dismissed by Kennedy after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion).
According to investigative reporter Joseph Trento, among senior government officials, only James Angleton continued to express the belief that the Kennedy assassination was not carried out by a lone gunman.
One conspiracy theory suggests that a secret or shadow government including wealthy industrialists and right-wing politicians ordered the assassination of Kennedy. Peter Dale Scott has indicated that Kennedy's death allowed for policy reversals desired by the secret government to escalate the United States' military involvement in Vietnam.
In the farewell speech given by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he left office, he warned the nation about the power of the military establishment and the arms industry. "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." Some conspiracy theorists have argued that Kennedy planned to end the involvement of the United States in Vietnam, and was therefore targeted by those who had an interest in sustained military conflict, including the Pentagon and defense contractors.
Former Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough in 1991 stated: "Had Kennedy lived, I think we would have had no Vietnam War, with all of its traumatic and divisive influences in America. I think we would have escaped that."
According to author James Douglass, Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. Douglass argued that this "was not the kind of leadership the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex wanted in the White House."
Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK explored the possibility that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy involving the military-industrial complex. L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy, and the person who inspired the character "Mr. X" in Stone's movie, wrote that Kennedy's assassination was actually a coup d'état.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that it investigated "alleged Secret Service complicity in the assassination" and concluded that the Secret Service was not involved. However, the HSCA declared that "the Secret Service was deficient in the performance of its duties." Among its findings, the HSCA noted: (1) that President Kennedy had not received adequate protection in Dallas, (2) that the Secret Service possessed information that was not properly analyzed, investigated, or used by the Secret Service in connection with the President's trip to Dallas, and (3) that the Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the President from a sniper. The HSCA specifically noted:
No actions were taken by the agent in the right front seat of the Presidential limousine [ Roy Kellerman ] to cover the President with his body, although it would have been consistent with Secret Service procedure for him to have done so. The primary function of the agent was to remain at all times in close proximity to the President in the event of such emergencies.
Some argue that the lack of Secret Service protection occurred because Kennedy himself had asked that the Secret Service make itself discreet during the Dallas visit. However, Vince Palamara, who interviewed several Secret Service agents assigned to the Kennedy detail, disputes this. Palamara reports that Secret Service driver Sam Kinney told him that requests—such as removing the bubble top from the limousine in Dallas, not having agents positioned beside the limousine's rear bumper, and reducing the number of Dallas police motorcycle outriders near the limousine's rear bumper—were not made by Kennedy.
In The Echo from Dealey Plaza, Abraham Bolden—the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail—claimed to have overheard agents say that they would not protect Kennedy from would-be assassins:
[President Kennedy] alienated Southerners and conservatives around the country, most of whom were already suspicious of him. In this, the Secret Service reflected the more backward elements of America. Many of the agents with whom I worked were products of the South.... I heard some members of the White House detail say that if shots were fired at the president, they'd take no action to protect him. A few agents vowed that they would quit the Secret Service rather than give up their lives for Kennedy.
Questions regarding the forthrightness of the Secret Service increased in the 1990s when the Assassination Records Review Board—which was created when Congress passed the JFK Records Act—requested access to Secret Service records. The Review Board was told by the Secret Service that in January 1995, in violation of the JFK Records Act, the Secret Service destroyed protective survey reports that covered JFK's trips from September 24 through November 8, 1963.[relevant? ]
The House Select Committee on Assassinations wrote: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved".
With the 1959 Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, thousands of Cubans left their homeland to take up residence in the United States. Many exiles hoped to overthrow Castro and return to Cuba. Their hopes were dashed with the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, and many exiles blamed President Kennedy for the failure.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that some militant Cuban exiles might have participated in Kennedy's murder. These exiles worked closely with CIA operatives in violent activities against Castro's Cuba. In 1979, the committee reported:
President Kennedy's popularity among the Cuban exiles had plunged deeply by 1963. Their bitterness is illustrated in a tape recording of a meeting of anti-Castro Cubans and right-wing Americans in the Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch on October 1, 1963.
Holding a copy of the September 26 edition of The Dallas Morning News, featuring a front-page account of the President's planned trip to Texas in November, Cuban exile Nestor Castellanos vented his hostility:
CASTELLANOS ...we're waiting for Kennedy the 22d, [the date Kennedy was murdered] buddy. We're going to see him in one way or the other. We're going to give him the works when he gets in Dallas. Mr. good ol' Kennedy. I wouldn't even call him President Kennedy. He stinks.
Author Joan Didion explored the Miami anti-Castro Cuban theory in her 1987 non-fiction book Miami. She discussed Marita Lorenz' testimony regarding Guillermo Novo, a Cuban exile who was involved in shooting a bazooka at the U.N. building from the East River during a speech by Che Guevara. Allegedly, Novo was affiliated with Lee Harvey Oswald and Frank Sturgis and carried weapons with them to a hotel in Dallas just prior to the assassination. These claims, though put forth to the House Assassinations Committee by Lorenz, were never substantiated by a conclusive investigation.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations wrote: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved".
Documents never seen by the Warren Commission have revealed that some Mafiosi worked with the CIA on assassination attempts against Cuban leader Fidel Castro. CIA documents released in 2007 confirmed that in the summer of 1960, the CIA recruited ex-FBI agent Robert Maheu to approach the West Coast representative of the Chicago mob, Johnny Roselli. When Maheu contacted Roselli, Maheu hid the fact that he was sent by the CIA, instead portraying himself an advocate for international corporations. He offered to pay $150,000 to have Castro killed, but Roselli declined any pay. Roselli introduced Maheu to two men he referred to as "Sam Gold" and "Joe." "Sam Gold" was Sam Giancana; "Joe" was Santo Trafficante, Jr., the Tampa, Florida, boss and one of the most powerful mobsters in pre-revolution Cuba. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post explained: "After Fidel Castro led a revolution that toppled a friendly government in 1959, the CIA was desperate to eliminate him. So the agency sought out a partner equally worried about Castro—the Mafia, which had lucrative investments in Cuban casinos."
In his memoir, Bound by Honor, Bill Bonanno, son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, disclosed that several Mafia families had long-standing ties with the anti-Castro Cubans through the Havana casinos operated by the Mafia before the Cuban Revolution. Many Cuban exiles and Mafia bosses disliked President Kennedy, blaming him for the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. They also disliked his brother, the young and idealistic Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who had conducted an unprecedented legal assault on organized crime. This was especially provocative because several Mafia "families" had allegedly worked with JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, to get JFK elected. Both the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans were experts in assassination—the Cubans having been trained by the CIA. Bonanno reported that he recognized the high degree of involvement of other Mafia families when Jack Ruby killed Oswald, since Bonanno was aware that Ruby was an associate of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.
Some conspiracy researchers have alleged a plot involving elements of the Mafia, the CIA and the anti-Castro Cubans, including Anthony Summers, who stated: "Sometimes people sort of glaze over about the notion that the Mafia and U.S. intelligence and the anti-Castro activists were involved together in the assassination of President Kennedy. In fact, there's no contradiction there. Those three groups were all in bed together at the time and had been for several years in the fight to topple Fidel Castro." News reporter Ruben Castaneda wrote in 2012: "Based on the evidence, it is likely that JFK was killed by a coalition of anti-Castro Cubans, the Mob, and elements of the CIA." In his book, They Killed Our President, former Minnesota governor Jessie Ventura concluded: "John F. Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy involving disgruntled CIA agents, anti-Castro Cubans, and members of the Mafia, all of whom were extremely angry at what they viewed as Kennedy's appeasement policies toward Communist Cuba and the Soviet Union."
Carlos Marcello allegedly threatened to assassinate the President to short-circuit his younger brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was leading the administration's anti-Mafia crusade. Information released in 2006 by the FBI has led some to conclude that Carlos Marcello confessed[to whom?] to having organized Kennedy's assassination, and that the FBI covered-up this information which it had in its possession.[dead link]
In his book, Contract on America, David Scheim provided evidence that Mafia leaders Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa ordered the assassination of President Kennedy. Scheim cited in particular a 25-fold increase in the number of out-of-state telephone calls from Jack Ruby to associates of these crime bosses in the months before the assassination, and to an attempted confession by Jack Ruby while in prison. David E. Kaiser has also suggested mob involvement in his book, The Road to Dallas.
Investigative reporter Jack Anderson concluded that Fidel Castro worked with organized crime figures to arrange the JFK assassination. In his book Peace, War, and Politics, Anderson claimed that Mafia member Johnny Roselli gave him extensive details of the plot. Anderson said that although he was never able to independently confirm Roselli's entire story, many of Roselli's details checked out. Anderson said that Oswald may have played a role in the assassination, but that more than one gunman were involved. Johnny Roselli, as previously noted, had worked with the CIA on assassination attempts against Castro.
The History Channel program The Men Who Killed Kennedy presented additional evidence for organized crime involvement. Christian David was a Corsican Mafia member interviewed in prison. He said that he was offered the assassination contract on President Kennedy, but that he did not accept it. However, he said that he knew the men who did accept the contract. According to David, there were three shooters. He provided the name of one—Lucien Sarti. David said that since the other two shooters were still alive, it would break a code of conduct for him to identify them. When asked what the shooters were wearing, David noted their modus operandi was to dress in costumes such as official uniforms. Much of Christian David's testimony was confirmed by former Corsican member Michelle Nicole, who was part of the DEA witness protection program.
The book Ultimate Sacrifice, by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman, attempted to synthesize these theories with new evidence. The authors argued that government officials felt obliged to help the assassins cover up the truth because the assassination conspiracy had direct ties to American government plots to assassinate Castro. Outraged at Robert Kennedy's attack on organized crime, mob leaders had President Kennedy killed to remove Robert from power. A government investigation of the plot was thwarted, the authors allege, because it would have revealed embarrassing evidence of American government involvement with organized crime in plots to kill Castro.
A 2003 Gallup poll indicated that nearly 20% of Americans suspected Lyndon B. Johnson of being involved in the assassination of Kennedy. Critics of the Warren Commission have accused Johnson of plotting the assassination because he hated the Kennedys and feared that he would be dropped from the Democratic ticket for the 1964 election. With his 1968 book, The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Joachim Joesten is credited as being the first conspiracy author to accuse Johnson of having his role in the assassination. According to Joesten, Johnson "played the leading part" in a conspiracy that involved "the Dallas oligarchy and ... local branches of the CIA, the FBI, and the Secret Service". Other assassination authors who have indicated there was complicity on the part of Johnson include Jim Marrs, Ralph D. Thomas, J. Gary Shaw, Larry Harris, Walt Brown, Noel Twyman, Barr McClellan, Craig Zirbel, Penn Jones, Jr., and Madeleine Brown.
In 2003, researcher Barr McClellan published the book Blood, Money & Power. McClellan claims that Johnson, motivated by the fear of being dropped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and the need to cover up various scandals, masterminded Kennedy's assassination with the help of his friend, Austin attorney Edward A. Clark. The book suggests that a smudged partial fingerprint from the sniper's nest likely belonged to Johnson's associate Malcolm "Mac" Wallace, and that Mac Wallace was, therefore, on the sixth floor of the Depository at the time of the shooting. The book further claims that the killing of Kennedy was paid for by oil magnates, including Clint Murchison and H. L. Hunt. McClellan states that the assassination of Kennedy allowed the oil depletion allowance to be kept at 27.5 percent. It remained unchanged during the Johnson presidency. According to McClellan, this resulted in a saving of over $100 million to the American oil industry. McClellan's book subsequently became the subject of an episode of Nigel Turner's ongoing documentary television series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. The episode, "The Guilty Men", drew angry condemnation from the Johnson family, Johnson's former aides, and former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter following its airing on The History Channel. The History Channel assembled a committee of historians who concluded the accusations in the documentary were without merit, and The History Channel apologized to the Johnson family and agreed not to air the series in the future.
Madeleine Brown, who alleged she was the mistress of Johnson, also implicated him in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. In 1997, Brown said that Johnson, along with H. L. Hunt, had begun planning Kennedy's demise as early as 1960. Brown claimed that by its fruition in 1963, the conspiracy involved dozens of persons, including the leadership of the FBI and the Mafia, as well as prominent politicians and journalists. In the documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Madeleine Brown and May Newman (an employee of Texas oilman Clint Murchison) both placed J. Edgar Hoover at a social gathering at Murchison's mansion the night before the assassination. Also in attendance, according to Brown, were John McCloy, Richard Nixon, George Brown, R. L. Thornton, and H. L. Hunt. Madeleine Brown claimed that Johnson arrived at the gathering late in the evening and, in a "grating whisper," told her that the "...Kennedys will never embarrass me again—that's no threat—that's a promise." In addition, Brown said that on New Year's Eve 1963, she met Johnson at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas and that he confirmed the conspiracy to kill Kennedy, insisting that "the fat cats of Texas and [U.S.] intelligence" had been responsible. Brown reiterated her allegations against Johnson in the 2006 documentary Evidence of Revision. In the same documentary, several other Johnson associates also voiced their suspicions of Johnson.
Suspicions that Johnson was involved in covering up facts about the assassination were supported by Parkland Hospital doctor Charles Crenshaw, who treated Oswald after he was shot and wounded by Jack Ruby. While attending to Oswald, Crenshaw said he received a phone call from Johnson. Crenshaw gave his account of the phone conversation in his book Trauma Room One:
Johnson: "Dr. Crenshaw, how is the accused assassin [Oswald]?"
Crenshaw: "Mr. President, he's holding his own at the moment."
Johnson: "Would you mind taking a message to the operating surgeon?"
Crenshaw: "Dr. Shires is very busy right now, but I will convey your message."
Johnson: "Dr. Crenshaw, I want a death-bed confession from the accused assassin. There's a man in the operating room who will take the statement. I will expect full cooperation in this matter."
Crenshaw: "Yes, sir."
Former CIA agent and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt accused Johnson (along with several CIA agents whom he names) of complicity in the assassination in his posthumously released autobiography American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond. Referencing that section of the book, Tim Weiner of The New York Times and Joseph C. Goulden of the The Washington Times called into question the sincerity of the charges, and William F. Buckley, Jr., who wrote the foreword, said material "was clearly ghostwritten". Shortly afterwards, an audio-taped "deathbed confession" in which Hunt claimed knowledge of a conspiracy was released by his sons; the authenticity of the confession was also met with some skepticism.
Historian Michael L. Kurtz wrote that there is no evidence suggesting that Johnson ordered the assassination of Kennedy. According to Kurtz, Johnson believed Fidel Castro was responsible for the assassination and that Johnson covered up the truth because he feared the possibility that retaliatory measures against Cuba might escalate to nuclear war with the Soviet Union. In 2012, investigative biographer Robert Caro published his fourth volume on Johnson's career, The Passage of Power, which chronicles Johnson's communications and actions as vice president, and described the events which leading up to the assassination. Caro wrote that "nothing that I have found in my research" points to involvement by Johnson.
The Warren Commission reported that they investigated "dozens of allegations of a conspiratorial contact between Oswald and agents of the Cuban Government" and that they found no evidence that Cuba was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. The House Select Committee on Assassinations also wrote: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Cuban Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy".
In the early 1960s, Clare Boothe Luce, wife of Time-Life publisher Henry Luce, was one of a number of prominent Americans who sponsored anti-Castro groups. This support included funding exiles in commando speedboat raids against Cuba. In 1975, Clare Luce said that on the night of the assassination, she received a call from a member of a commando group she had sponsored. According to Luce, the caller's name was "something like" Julio Fernandez and he claimed he was calling her from New Orleans.
According to Luce, Fernandez told her that Oswald had approached his group with an offer to help assassinate Castro. Fernandez further claimed that he and his associates eventually found out that Oswald was a communist and supporter of Castro. He said that with this new-found knowledge, his group kept a close watch on Oswald until Oswald suddenly came into money and went to Mexico City and then Dallas. Finally, according to Luce, Fernandez told her, "There is a Cuban Communist assassination team at large and Oswald was their hired gun."
Luce said that she told the caller to give his information to the FBI. Subsequently, Luce would reveal the details of the incident to both the Church Committee and the HSCA. Both committees investigated the incident, but were unable to uncover any evidence to corroborate the allegations.
In May 1967, CIA Director Richard Helms told President Lyndon Johnson that the CIA had tried to assassinate Castro. Helms further stated that the CIA had employed members of the Mafia in this effort, and "...that CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro dated back to August of 1960—to the Eisenhower Administration." Helms also said that the plots against Castro continued into the Kennedy Administration and that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had known about both the plots and the Mafia's involvement.
On separate occasions, Johnson told two prominent television newsmen that he believed that JFK's assassination had been organized by Castro as retaliation for the CIA's efforts to kill Castro. In October 1968, Johnson told veteran newsman Howard K. Smith of ABC that "Kennedy was trying to get to Castro, but Castro got to him first." In September 1969, in an interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS, Johnson said in regard to the assassination, “[I could not] honestly say that I've ever been completely relieved of the fact that there might have been international connections," and referenced unnamed "others." Finally, in 1971, Johnson told his former speechwriter Leo Janos of Time magazine that he "never believed that Oswald acted alone".
In 1977, Castro was interviewed by newsman Bill Moyers. Castro denied any involvement in Kennedy's death, saying:
It would have been absolute insanity by Cuba.... It would have been a provocation. Needless to say, it would have been to run the risk that our country would have been destroyed by the United States. Nobody who's not insane could have thought about [killing Kennedy in retaliation].
President Lyndon Johnson also implicated the CIA in the assassination. According to an FBI document released in 1977, Johnson's postmaster general, Marvin Watson, told the FBI "...that [Johnson] was now convinced there was a plot in connection with the assassination. Watson stated the President felt the CIA had something to do with this plot."
The Warren Commission reported that they found no evidence that the Soviet Union was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. The House Select Committee on Assassinations also wrote: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Soviet Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy".
According to a 1966 FBI document, Colonel Boris Ivanov—chief of the KGB at the time of the assassination—stated that it was his personal opinion that the assassination had been planned by an organized group, rather than a lone individual. The same document stated, "...officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the 'ultraright' in the United States to effect a 'coup.'"
Much later, the highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, said that he had a conversation with Nicolae Ceauşescu who told him about "ten international leaders the Kremlin killed or tried to kill": "László Rajk and Imre Nagy of Hungary; Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu and Gheorghiu-Dej in Romania; Rudolf Slánský, the head of Czechoslovakia; and Jan Masaryk, that country's chief diplomat; the Shah of Iran; Palmiro Togliatti of Italy; American President John F. Kennedy; and Mao Zedong." Pacepa provided some additional details, such as a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by the KGB and claimed that "among the leaders of Moscow's satellite intelligence services there was unanimous agreement that the KGB had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy." Pacepa later released a book, Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, in 2007.
David Lifton presented a scenario in which conspirators on Air Force One removed Kennedy's body from its original bronze casket and placed it in a shipping casket, while en route from Dallas to Washington. Once the presidential plane arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, the shipping casket with the President's body in it was surreptitiously taken by helicopter from the side of the plane that was out of the television camera's view. Kennedy's body was then taken to an unknown location—most likely Walter Reed Army Medical Center—to surgically alter the body to make it appear that he was shot only from the rear.
Part of Lifton's theory comes from a House Select Committee on Assassinations report of an interview of Lt. Richard Lipsey on January 18, 1978, by committee staff members Donald Purdy and Mark Flanagan. According to the report, Lt. Richard Lipsey said that he and General Wehle had met President Kennedy's body at Andrews Air Force Base. Lipsey "...placed [the casket] in a hearse to be transported to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Lipsey mentioned that he and Wehle then flew by helicopter to Bethesda and took [the body of] JFK into the back of Bethesda." Lipsey said that "a decoy hearse had been driven to the front [of Bethesda]." With Lipsey's mention of a "decoy hearse" at Bethesda, Lifton theorized that the casket removed by Lipsey from Air Force One—from the side of the plane exposed to television—was probably also a decoy and was likely empty.
Laboratory technologist Paul O'Connor was one of the major witnesses supporting another part of David Lifton's theory that somewhere between Parkland and Bethesda the President's body was made to appear as if it had been shot only from the rear. O'Connor said that President Kennedy's body arrived at Bethesda inside a body bag in "a cheap, shipping-type of casket", which differed from the description of the ornamental bronze casket and sheet that the body had been wrapped in at Parkland Hospital. O'Connor said that the brain had already been removed by the time it got to Bethesda, and that there were "just little pieces" of brain matter left inside the skull.
Researcher David Wrone dismissed the theory that Kennedy's body was surreptitiously removed from the presidential plane, stating that as is done with all cargo on airplanes for safety precautions, the coffin and lid were held by steel wrapping cables to prevent shifting during takeoff and landing and in case of air disturbances in flight. According to Wrone, the side of the plane away from the television camera "was bathed in klieg lights, and thousands of persons watched along the fence that bent backward along that side, providing, in effect, a well-lit and very public stage for any would-be body snatchers".
Jim Marrs, in his book Crossfire, presented the theory that Kennedy was trying to rein in the power of the Federal Reserve, and that forces opposed to such action might have played at least some part in the assassination. According to Marrs, the issuance of Executive Order 11110 was an effort by Kennedy to transfer power from the Federal Reserve to the United States Department of the Treasury by replacing Federal Reserve Notes with Silver Certificates. Actor and author Richard Belzer named the responsible parties in this theory as American "billionaires, power brokers, and bankers ... working in tandem with the CIA and other sympathetic agents of the government."
A 2010 article in Research magazine discussing various controversies surrounding the Federal Reserve stated that "the wildest accusation against the Fed is that it was involved in Kennedy's assassination." Critics of the theory note that Kennedy called for and signed legislation phasing out Silver Certificates in favor of Federal Reserve Notes, thereby enhancing the power of the Federal Reserve; and that Executive Order 11110 was a technicality that only delegated existing presidential powers to the Secretary of the Treasury for administrative convenience during a period of transition.
Immediately following Kennedy's death, speculation that he was assassinated by a "Zionist conspiracy" was prevalent in much of the Arab world and the Middle East. Among these views were that Zionists were motivated to kill Kennedy due to his opposition to an Israeli nuclear program, that Lyndon B. Johnson received orders from Zionists to have Kennedy killed, and that the assassin was a Zionist agent.
According to Michael Collins Piper in Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Controversy, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion orchestrated the assassination after learning that Kennedy planned to keep Israel from obtaining nuclear weapons. Piper said that the assassination "was a joint enterprise conducted on the highest levels of the American CIA, in collaboration with organized crime—and most specifically, with direct and profound involvement by the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad." The theory also alleges involvement of Meyer Lansky and the Anti-Defamation League. In 2004, Mordechai Vanunu stated that the assassination was Israel's response to "pressure [Kennedy] exerted on... Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona's nuclear reactor in Israel." In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi also alleged that Kennedy was killed for wanting to investigate Dimona.