Interviews

A Conversation with Harold Weisberg
May 23, 1999
Transcript © 1999 by Barry Ernest

So, if you were me, how would you write a book these days?

If I were to do it, I think as a first-person account and that’s what I think you should do.

Tell me about your first book, Whitewash.

I had lost my [literary] agent and I had gotten a contract with a small publisher in New York who just published a best seller, the book Patton. I was impressed by that, but that was a fluke. He was an utter incompetent. I had to deliver the manuscript [for Whitewash] by February 15 and I did. It was 1965. I went up to New York and they told me advanced sales would total 39,000 [book copies] which, in those days, was a best seller. Two days later they broke the contract and didn’t even return the manuscript. So, how do you account for this? They say it’s a best seller, and for those days, with that much of advanced sales with no advertising or public relations and generated only by book stores. Thirty-nine thousand in advanced sales before the book was written. And yet they broke the contract. And then on top of it, how do you explain their not returning the manuscript? I had to reconstitute the manuscript.

Toward the end of April of 1966, I decided to publish it myself. It was kind of a daring and crazy thing to do, because I had no money and I was in debt. All I could do by publishing it was increase my debt. I had over 100 rejections. Not one included any editorial criticism of the manuscript. That was hard to understand and hard to explain. Several places I had encouragement. For example, the special events director [at one major publisher] had it overnight, and told me the next day, he said, “I think we can do 50,000 for the first print on this.” But he said his boss in San Francisco had to approve it. Well, he didn’t approve it. He said, “It’s a fine book; it’ll sell like hell.” So I said, “Why did he disapprove it?” He said, “Well, we only publish recognized scholars and you’re not a recognized scholar.”

How long did it take you to write Whitewash?

I had a month to write it in full.

That’s all?

That’s all. By then I had an enormous series of notes and selections of manuscript that my wife and sister-in-law were typing up, I guess at least a quarter of a million words, maybe more. So you see, the first one, while I had some writing experience and had some investigative experience, professionally I was a farmer. In any event, I was not a lawyer, I was without a professional investigator, without a professional politician, without a professional of any kind. Yet it [Whitewash] was the first book and is still the basic book [regarding the Kennedy assassination]. How do you account for that? I think that the best understanding was given to me by a local bookstore operator, a guy who loved books and his customers loved him. I said, “How do you account for this?” He said, “A lot of ways but one thing you want to keep in mind. The government is the biggest purchaser of books in the country.” They order magazines also. You take Fort Detrick here [outside Frederick, Maryland]. They get $200 a month to spend on books. If the Army says, “We don’t want you to get that book,” or the Army wants to retaliate and doesn’t put that publisher on the [purchase] list for the next month, that publisher sustains an enormous loss. And the longer they continue, the bigger the loss.

I could understand that.

One of the major editors saw me and he said, “When will you be back in town? I like your subject matter.” I said, “In about a week.” He said, “When you do give me a call.” Before I left town, I made a call to a friend with whom I was staying and was given the message to get in touch with him [the editor] in a hurry. So, I called him on my way out of town and went back to see him. And he said, “Let’s get to the book. It is a best seller, and if you sign with us, this will be the best selling book of 1965.” He said, “When will you be back in town again.” I told him in about a week. He said, “Well, stop in.” He said, “If it were up to me, I’d say do it now.” When I went back a week later he said, “I’ve got bad news for you.” He said, “It was approved with excitement by everybody up to [the publisher himself], but he turned it down.” And he turned it down for the explicit reason that it would be like the red flag to the charging bull of the government. But he said it was a fine book and everybody had read it. He said, “We’d like to see it get published. Would you like me to refer it to another publisher?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “All the books Doubleday wants published in paperback they send to me. They’ll listen to me.” So he called the guy he deals with and that guy said, “Send it over.” And he did. I got a letter from Doubleday saying, “Perhaps if you had gone farther astray, we’d have been more tempted.”

So you had your book written by the time all this was all going on?

Before.

But you’re saying I should get a literary agent before I write it?

Yes, because you’ll go crazier than I did and you wouldn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to do it. There are certain things they know, for example, what publisher is into what kind of book.

And you would write it in the first person, tracing it from day one to as we sit here today?

Yes. So, I didn’t know what to do. I went to a friend of mine who was a commercial artist [who introduced Weisberg to yet another man, who told him how to retype the manuscript to avoid extra costs associated with self-publishing, and also came up with an idea for a cover]. The cover worked fine for me and was, in fact, copied by Dell, which had turned the book down three times. [Dell Publishing Co. ultimately released Whitewash in paperback, but only when Weisberg had successfully self-published that book after offering the mortgage to his house to the printing company as collateral for payment.]

That’s how it got started.

So you’ve written nine books on the JFK case?

Yes. But let me add one thing to this. What made a success out of Whitewash was another accident. The vice president of New American Library in New York called me up on a Saturday morning and he said, “We want to consider republishing this, will you send me a copy?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Hey, you’ve got to do a talk show. That’s the way to do it.” I said, “I don’t know anything about it; I never even listen to them.” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” He put me in touch with a guy who did a radio broadcast Saturday night from an Italian restaurant in downtown Washington.

That was your first radio interview?

That was my first one and it was an education. I let him jump all over me for a while; the people loved it. And I waited for him to come up with something clever and I said, “Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute here. You don’t know what you’re talking about; you’re asking me questions that I can’t answer because they are not real. And it makes me look bad. Now why don’t you deal with facts for a change?” And I really tore him up. Oh, the people loved it. Then that clear-channel station in New York, WNBC. They called me up and said, “Would you come up?” I said, “Sure.” So I drove up and got to the studio about 11:30 and it went on at midnight and lasted four hours. It was not an audience show; it was a studio show. The so-called impartial panel consisted of the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party and another big string on the Right, as was the moderator. It was a gang up. So, I learned in Washington what you do: I just held my temper, I let them jump all over me until it got to a good point, and then I launched into them. And one of them asked a simple question, he said, “Mr. Weisberg, tell me, have you ever been to Dallas?” And I said, “You know, I’ve been sitting here quite some time, wondering if you’ve read my book or if you’re just that stupid. My book is about Washington. Now if you asked me if I was ever in Washington, I’d say, yes sir, indeed I was; I lived there for quite some time.” That threw them all for a loop. And when each went after me, I knocked each one down the same way. And from that time the show went all my way. Oh, it was exciting. Cause they were ignorant and they were prejudiced, and they were speaking from prejudice and preconception, not intelligence.

You did a Joe Pyne show too, didn’t you?

Yes I did. I did two Joe Pyne shows.

Did you like him?

No. No, I did not. But there was one show I did in San Francisco. And 15 minutes before the show was off, a guy came in and gave me a note. “Somebody on the phone wants to talk with you off the air; he doesn’t want to give you his name. He says he knew Oswald.” Then when the show was off I went out there and the guy did tell me that he just started a business and he didn’t want to be associated with a view that the government didn’t share. So he wanted anonymity and I promised it to him. And I never made the effort to find out who he was. He said, “The Oswald you’re talking about is not the Oswald I knew.” I said, “You knew him?” He said, “In the Marines; I was in his outfit.” He said, “Oswald was one of five men in the outfit who had crypto clearance.” I said, “I never heard of crypto clearance.” He said, “There is a classification and the prerequisite is top secret.” Some of what he told me [about Oswald] was not public. I did the investigating and established it. Like he [Oswald] was a pool shark. And he liked classical music. And his favorite opera was Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades.” So I’m down in San Francisco telling this story about Oswald having a clearance that was not in his military record and I get a call from a woman saying, “I had crypto clearance, and top secret is a prerequisite.”

Back then Channel 5 in New York, which was then the largest independent TV station in the country, had talk shows. They asked Edward Epstein to appear on the talk show and he refused. And they called me up and I said, “Sure.” So, I went up. And I didn’t know till later that they had tried to stack the audience. I got the records from the FBI.

You’ve appeared on talk shows in Philadelphia. Why won’t Arlen Specter talk with you about this?

Why should he talk about it? It can only make him look worse than he already looks.

But other Commission members have.

Not much, and not often. I’ve confronted [Wesley] Liebeler but he’s never done it a second time.

But Specter has never responded to you?

No. Never heard a word from him. When I was talking about him in Philadelphia, never heard a word from him. I never talked about him personally, I wouldn’t personalize it, but I was talking about the record.

How come there are so many bad books out on this case?

First of all, a lot of these people think they’re Perry Mason reborn, and they have none of the qualifications. Some of them do it because they genuinely believe that way, they want to protect the government, they want to become government defenders, and that could become a career. Witness that young fellow that did Oswald Talked.

You mean the La Fontaines?

No….

Oh, Gerald Posner. Case Closed? He stayed with you a while when he wrote that book, didn’t he?

Three days. If I had known what he was going to do, he would still have been there, still had the same access. I didn’t know what he copied. I didn’t even count them; I took his count. And the other reason [why bad books are on the market] is because they think there is money there. Posner did. He said the reason he wrote the book was because he felt that Oliver Stone had created a market for him. But from the very first, it was almost impossible to get a responsible, factual book published. I did no theorizing in any of my books. And, after 34 years, I have yet to get a letter or telephone call from anyone I knew saying that I was unfair or inaccurate.

And there are those books that tend to give even you less credibility as a writer.

I don’t know. I think it makes all writing about [the assassination] less credible. I don’t think they single me out. They’re disgraceful, they’re irrational, they’re impossible, and they’re almost without exception, terribly incompetent. They just don’t know what they’re doing. You mentioned the La Fontaines. They knew in advance [their book, Oswald Talked] was false, because they had done a large article for the Washington Post and I wrote a commentary on that and sent it to the Post and they sent it to them. I told the Post that if they found a word wrong [in Weisberg’s commentary], I promised to respond in writing. I never heard from them. Their notion is that Oswald was a police snitch. They had at least five persons involved in that conspiracy: one of them was Oswald, one of them was Ruby, two of them were in the military, and I’ve forgotten who the other one was.

Wrong. That story had been around before.

Weren’t they the authors who uncovered the arrest records of the tramps?

The people who made something of the tramps began, to the best of my knowledge, with Jim Garrison. And every time they [Garrison’s office] came up with some story about the tramps I would debunk it. So they’d come up with another story.

Did you ever hear anything about a telephone number that was in Oswald’s notebook involving a Kenneth Cody?

No. I didn’t follow him. I had no interest in that because I knew Oswald was innocent to begin with, was not guilty.

But this Kenneth Cody was supposedly the son of Joe Cody, a Dallas police officer?

Could be. I don’t know. A lot of names in there that, you’d go crazy trying to trace them. But one thing I did do was to check the names that lead to Russia because when [Oswald] was arrested in New Orleans, he had copies of that and only that out of his address book and left the rest of his address book at home. Now why does a guy who pretends he’s a Marxist and pretends that he’s pro-Castro go out and do what’s going to get him arrested and have in his pocket what will connect him with Russia. That’s one of the things that lead me to believe he was some kind of a provocateur or agent of some kind. But there’s no proof of it. But you can make sense that way.

If Oswald was on the first floor, who was on the sixth floor?

I know of no proof that a shot came from the sixth floor.

Well, you have Howard Brennan.

There is the utterly meaningless. He had already said he couldn’t identify Oswald when they showed him at a police lineup that night.

You had Amos Euins.

Amos Euins said the man was black, then changed it to white. He said he saw a “pipe-like” thing. I have no reason to believe that something was sticking out the window. You see, that is an unusual building. Those windowsills are only one foot above the floor. Now how are you going to shoot a rifle out of that without being halfway out the building? You can’t do it from a kneeling position; you can’t do it from a standing position; you can’t do it from a prone position.

So the shells and the rifle were there just to implicate Oswald?

Absolutely.

How could they be sure, though, that if he were on the first floor, someone wouldn’t positively see him?

They did that. It happened that way.

Why was he the one who became the patsy?

That indicates that somebody had knowledge of his past.

And he was unaware that he was going to be fingered for this?

He had no idea.

How’d they get his rifle in there?

There is one thing sure about that rifle. It was not in the Paine home. The Paines were Quakers. They would not have allowed the rifle in their home, and that’s what they said. In addition to that, Ruth Paine loaded the station wagon in New Orleans and she didn’t see it. And Michael Paine unloaded the station wagon in Irving and he didn’t see it. The rifle was well oiled when the FBI examined it; allegedly it was wrapped in a brown Kraft paper wrapping that was hand-made into a bag. There was no oil in the bag in which it had bounced around for quite some time, there was no oil in the blanket in which it was allegedly wrapped in the [Paine] house.

What did he carry in that day?

Curtain rods, is what he said.

Which showed up in the Dallas police files in 1993, right?

I don’t know.

Well if you read Oswald Talked it says in there that there were curtain rods in the Dallas police files that had been fingerprinted, or powdered….

I didn’t see that. I’d like to have a copy of that.

…that they couldn’t explain where they were from.

What is your source on that?

That’s from Oswald Talked, that’s what they wrote about, the La Fontaines.

I don’t remember that. I missed that. But there is not a single thing alleged against Oswald that will stand in court. Like the description of the bag, from [Buell Wesley] Frazier and his sister. And they tested them on that and it stood up. Their estimate was within an inch or two of the actual length as it measured out to be.

So when Oswald left the Texas School Book Depository, where was he going?

I have no reason to believe he was on that bus. They say he was. That woman [Mrs. Bledsoe, who supposedly identified Oswald] couldn’t have been depended on by anybody. And the guy the [bus] driver thought was Oswald actually turned out to be a boy.

But he had a transfer ticket in his pocket.

But you don’t know that that ticket was from that journey. He was waiting for a bus where he lives. At the best it would have taken him to where he went by walking. None of these things stack up. I don’t know a single thing alleged against Oswald that would have withstood cross-examination.

Where was he going when he left his rooming house?

To the movie.

But he was heading the opposite way from where the theatre was.

Not really. There is no direct way. I have no reason to believe he had anything in mind except to be invisible.

Did he shoot Tippit?

No.

Who shot Tippit?

I don’t know.

Was it related to JFK?

I have no way of knowing. You see, most people don’t realize that neither crime was ever really investigated.

What about the ballistics that showed the bullets in Tippit matched Oswald’s gun?

No. Only the shells did. The FBI said they couldn’t identify the bullets with the pistol. And the bullets that were recovered don’t stack with the shells. So the FBI created an unknown shot, and a lost shot, to make it balance.

So do you think he knew at that point that he was being labeled a…

He knew he had to be a suspect because he had gone to the Soviet Union. That would have made anybody a target. All he wanted to do was be invisible. If he had intended to [shoot the President] when he got up out of bed that morning he would have never left almost $200 for Marina. He left it for her to buy a washing machine for the baby’s diapers.

That was the only reason?

That’s what she said. And he kept only a little. How are you going to get away with less than $15?

Why did he come out to the Paine home Thursday evening then?

To patch things up [with Marina] and because that weekend [November 22-24] he couldn’t come out. He wouldn’t go out there when Ruth Paine was having some function for the kids. She wouldn’t want it. That weekend she had an affair for her children.

When Oswald was arrested, why didn’t he proclaim his innocence more than he did?

He did. What else is he going to do? All he wanted to do was let people know that he was a patsy. It’s a pity. And he was.

So who framed him?

That’s a good question. But it would have to be the people who were behind the assassination.

So this was well thought out in advance. This was not a last minute let’s-put-the-blame-on-Oswald deal?

That’s right. I think the basic understanding is, whether or not it is true, you’ve got to begin with the belief that the assassins were looking only for some lead time to get away. And once they had the rifle in the Depository that pointed to Oswald, that gave them some time. How were they able to do everything else? Who could have known, for example, what the number on Oswald’s rifle or pistol was [since he had ordered them under a false name]. They couldn’t. How did they know the rifle would point to Oswald?

This would have had to be planned out with amazing precision.

I think that the planning was only for getting away. No body getting caught. After that, it was all improvised by the government.

The gun had to be in the Texas School Book Depository.

That’s one of the things only a limited number of people would have known. It had to be there the night before.

They had to know Oswald wasn’t standing there talking with someone at the same time the shots were fired.

Yeah. But they could have pointed to Oswald saying he was involved with somebody else. They could have picked him up as an accessory.

How would they know that Oswald had the revolver in his coat pocket?

How do we know that he did?

Well, McDonald said that he drew a gun in the Texas Theatre.

Yes, that’s true. McDonald said that [Oswald] fired the gun and his thumb caught the firing pin [before striking the bullet in the chamber]. The FBI said that’s not true. So, maybe he had the gun. But we lack the proof. They went out of their way not to identify it. They waited eight hours. They had it in a desk drawer. So if he had a revolver they could have switched another one for it. You see, there are so many things we don’t know that should have been investigated. And there is a clear pattern on it. Katzenbach put it in writing. Hoover approved it. He wrote it out in long hand on the day Oswald was killed. I’ve got the hand-written copy. I’ve got the Department of Justice file copy. I’ve got the FBI file copy. So you see, I doubt that Katzenbach had any connection with the assassination. But they implemented this to cover the government’s ass.

It may have begun with Hoover on the day of the assassination. He was really far out, it was hysterical, for a couple of weeks. He put an awful lot of crazy stuff on paper. In Hoover’s interview with William Manchester, Hoover said he took the case illegally and he made it clear that the reason he did it was because of what came from Dallas, that Oswald was a “red [a Communist].” That was all the proof he needed. They never checked anything else. Even though [Oswald] had anti-Communist writings. He was anti-Communist and anti-Russian Communist. Anti-Soviet government. And openly in the Soviet Union he was that way. So, I’m sure that the people in the government were aware of his background and the Mafia had no way of knowing it.

Did Oswald know Ruby?

I doubt it. I have no reason to believe he did.

What about the witnesses who have seen him in the Carousel Club?

There is no reason to believe it.

What about Nancy Perrin Rich?

She has no credibility. She said Ruby was at that meeting she attended. Wrong. It was not possible.

Why would she make that up?

For attention, or for blackmail. She was very capable of blackmail. She blackmailed Garrison; I’ve got a tape of it. “If he calls me [to testify, Weisberg quotes her as saying on the tape] the first thing I’ll report is that he laid me on his couch in his office and he was no damn good.”

What about Garrison. What happened to him?

I don’t know. I don’t know if he became crazy or just irresponsible. I think that as a district attorney he was a good district attorney. He was insensitive to what reflected on him personally. I can tell you stories about that. He got his start with what I wrote in Whitewash. He said it was Senator [Russell] Long who gave him the idea about the assassination. But Long was interviewed by George Lardner of the [Washington] Post and said the first time he [Long] heard about it, it was over the radio. So why does a man do this? He [Garrison] would tell a lot of people rubbish in telephone interviews and on talk shows. And he would do this while I was sitting there. I said, “Jim, why are you going through all that crazy stuff?” He said, “I’m fighting fire with fire. They’re giving me trouble, I’m giving them trouble.” I believed it too long. Great tragedy. Great tragedy.

Was Clay Shaw involved? Was he Clay Bertrand?

I don’t know. But from what Dean Andrews told me and without using those words, he was. But one thing you’ve got to remember: he [Andrews] is one of the most accomplished liars. But don’t underestimate him. I’ll tell you a story about Dean Andrews. I was in his office on a Saturday afternoon when the telephone rings. It was from one of his homosexual clients calling and saying that he was coming up from Texas to kill him. I won’t try to imitate his [Andrew’s] accent—nobody could—but he says to me, “When he comes to New Orleans he’ll be on my turf.” This was on a Saturday. In the papers on Monday or Tuesday, the evening paper, had a banner headline across the whole top of the page that this guy was captured in New Orleans. A remarkable coincidence that Dean knew what he was talking about. That’s impressive.

Do you think Roger Craig was credible?

Another great tragedy. He was, to begin with, a very silent person. But all the pressure he was under, particularly from Penn Jones. Penn Jones had everyone believing that everybody was trying to kill him [Craig]. There was nothing to it. And he [Craig] began running around on his wife. And she left him. And he started to run around with another man’s wife who was separated but still married. The man came and knocked on the door one day and Roger answered it and the man shot him. That was not the cops or the FBI or the CIA.

Shot him and killed him?

No, the shot that killed him was self-inflicted.

Was it suicide? They said the gun discharged as he was cleaning it.

Do you have a bullet in it when you are cleaning it?

Usually not.

No, I don’t know. I’m satisfied that it was self-inflicted. He had loused up his life.

Did he see Oswald come running down the hill that day?

It’s possible. I have no reason to doubt it.

He saw someone who at least looked like Oswald that day.

I have no reason to doubt that either. We don’t know these things because there was never any real investigation. But I have no reason to believe that Oswald was on that bus; it makes no sense. He had to go six blocks to get on a bus that was going six blocks back to where all the traffic was. Crazy.

But what about that bus ticket?

It could have been made by other [bus driver] punches.

But I thought they traced that particular punch to Cecil McWatters, the bus driver in question.

That’s fine. They didn’t trace every bus punch in Dallas. They began with a preconception and it makes no sense.

But what about the taxi ride?

Yeah, how about that. If Oswald is in a hurry to get away, he wouldn’t have turned his cab over to an old lady. None of it makes sense. And the cab driver can’t say where he took him.

But didn’t the cab driver identify Oswald?

He did, but some of that may be dubious. I mean, [Oswald] must have been wearing two colors of pants when he wasn’t wearing either one of them; he must have been wearing a jacket when he wasn’t wearing a jacket. How much of this misidentification can you believe? And then he [William Whaley, the cab driver] says he signed a blank piece of paper and the district attorney wrote it out after he had signed it. You put that witness on the stand, you lose your case right then and there if you do.

You see, in the first place, the police had a bird in hand—Oswald. They didn’t want to beat the bushes. Then, the FBI had the angle Hoover wanted—the “red” angle. So they didn’t want to beat the bushes. And they didn’t. Nobody looked for anybody else.

Why?

Because they had let it happen.

If the government knew there were other assassins out there who had murdered the President, why didn’t they go after them?

Depends on who they knew were the assassins, or who they suspected the others were. But from the beginning, there was nothing to incriminate Oswald. You have a better explanation in saying it was planted than saying he was used. They never even made a swab test of his rifle to determine if it had been fired since the last time it had been cleaned.

Fingerprints on the rifle?

They were found in only one place: part of a palm print on the underneath of the rifle.

Pieces of fabric from the blanket that it had been stored in?

It was not stored in the blanket; the blanket had no oil on it. And besides that, all I can say is they said the fabric was “consistent” with the blanket. They could not say it came from the blanket. But how can you have a well-oiled rifle in a blanket that has no oil on it?

Pieces of fabric on the rifle from the shirt Oswald wore that day?

How do you know it’s that shirt? How do you know it’s that kind? All you can do is say it is consistent.

Who was on the sixth floor? Someone was up there.

Depends on what time. The only one who has any credibility is the newspaper photographer who said he saw something sticking out of the window. None of the other people do. Brennan places him on the wrong floor and the wrong window and everything else, even after he was prepared. Even after he rehearsed what he was supposed to say he couldn’t get it straight.

What about the shield of cartons that had been set up?

It was not. That didn’t exist; that was a fabrication. The pictures showed there were not. What was happening was that a new floor was being laid. They started on the one side and had moved all the boxes to the other side. None of this makes any sense at all. The crew, they piled the books in the only place they could.

The shells that were found.

They were planted. And they weren’t found on the first search of the building.

How did they know to plant only three shells?

I don’t know, but they decided on that. Whether or not they were Oswald’s, they were there.

So then someone planted the bullet at Parkland Hospital.

Yes.

What about the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back?

The actual evidence about those wounds makes it impossible [for it to have emerged from the throat]. I interviewed Dr. Perry on that. He examined that wound [in the throat] and he examined the x-rays of it, and he told me it was caused by a fragment. It was much too small of a hole. And [Dr.] Carrico told the Warren Commission what he told me: it was above the collar.

But he initially described it as an entrance wound.

He did, to begin with. But the autopsy doctors at the Navy hospital knew that. But it was changed after they had destroyed the first draft of the autopsy protocol when Oswald was killed. They knew there’d be no cross-examination.

Then where did the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back go?

Out the front.

So it went through the body, even though the doctors said it didn’t.

The doctors lied.

There was no passage through….

There was no passage because the doctors didn’t trace a passage. They lied about what was an entrance wound, what was an exit wound. They had to lower the neck wound and raise the back wound to make everything appear credible. And the official death certificate which was hidden—as you know, you lead me to it—says it was at the third thoracic vertebrae. And consistent with that are the holes in the shirt and the holes in the jacket.

What is not consistent with either an exit or an entrance is what the Commission says is the damage to the tie and the shirt collar. It’s impossible. There is no hole there. They were scalpel nicks. The nurse cut it [Kennedy’s tie] off, the way they do it. Dr. Carrico told me that is the usual practice. “They don’t have time to untie the knot; they cut it off. And I told them to do that. And they did it while I was doing other work.”

So the wound in the back, you say, actually did come out the front?

It had to, or there was another possibility. There was a wound in the front that was so low, but I’ve seen the shirt and there is no such hole in the shirt. I mean I’ve seen the pictures taken for me, but they [the Archives] wouldn’t give me copies. Besides that, the damage to the tie, if it had been caused by a bullet, it was impossible for it to coincide with the hole in the shirt.

Did you ever examine the coat and the shirt Kennedy wore?

They wouldn’t let me do it. But they took pictures for me. I brought a lawsuit and they swore falsely to the judge nothing could be accomplished [by Weisberg viewing the clothing]. They changed the regulations ex post facto.

What should I be looking into? What’s left?

It depends on what you want to do.

What’s available?

I don’t think there’s anything available. It would be insane.

We’ll never know who did it, will we?

I think the chances are against it. Maybe somebody will leave a confession that somebody else will find.

But who would believe them?

That’s a real problem.

So what are the secrets that are still there?

Why they did it, and things like that. One time, I addressed this. It was my one departure. I’ve had 25 book manuscripts. I had one of them called Waketh the Watchman in which I do theorize who could have done it, but I don’t theorize any evidence, and I don’t pretend to say anything but theory, and I am quite explicit in saying this is not presented as a solution.

[For a man who rarely spoke with speculation, Waketh the Watchman represents a remarkable parting. The 112,150-word essay was never published. Equally noteworthy are two follow-up manuscripts to Waketh, titled Epilogue (at 12,500 words) and Epilogue 2 (at 70,700 words), both also unpublished.]

Do you still believe someone was firing from the Dal-Tex building?

It’s possible; I don’t know. A shot is consistent with that. But the question is, if the shot came from there, where did it go? I think you can make the case for two shots to the head. In Post Mortem [1975] I made a case for a shot from the front. What are these cases made out of by all the people with theories? They made it out in defiance of the established fact. You take the x-rays of the head. They could not possibly have been faked. Nobody would fake a case to prove that they are faking it. And they couldn’t possibly be caused by military ammunition [used by Oswald]. Yet the government, the FBI and everybody said it was military ammunition.

What about Commission Exhibit 399. Was it planted out there?

Certainly. It couldn’t possibly have been anything else. [FBI firearm’s expert Robert] Frazier’s testimony was that there was blood and tissue on the bullet. Well, why didn’t they test the blood and tissue? They didn’t. He said the bullet had struck coarse cloth or leather. I would expect to see microscopic markings on there, but there are none. The bullet was only a little bit flattened at the butt end.

What about Posner’s claim that the bullet entered Connally backwards?

He can say anything he wants to. What he did was to take the theory of Failure Analysis to illustrate the methods that were available. Then he presented it as fact. Failure Analysis denies it. This is the kind of thing I mean, that you can make anything up. He also makes up a case that it was the first shot that missed. That’s not possible, because that first shot would have had to go to the south and then to the west. And I don’t think anything is going to make a right-hand turn when it hits only a branch of a tree and have enough power left to make a hole in concrete [Weisberg here is referring to the theory that a missed first shot hit a tree branch in front of the Depository, then was deflected in a different direction with enough velocity left to hit a curb near the Triple Underpass and wound bystander James Tague].

What happened to the bullet that was in Connally’s thigh?

It was a fragment. They left it there. That’s what [Dr.] Perry was called in on. He was called in because the other doctors were afraid that it was up against the femoral artery. That being the case, if they moved it a little bit, it could have killed him [Connally]. So Perry said it was not close enough to cause a problem and for that reason, he didn’t do the operation. Perry did not testify to the Warren Commission what he told the press three times. He did not tell them what he told me. He told me that was a sliver of metal [that caused the wound in Connally’s thigh].

He told you that wound in the thigh was a fragment? Was not a bullet?

Was a sliver, yes. Was not a bullet. The hole was much too small for a bullet. It was a fragment. And it is my recollection—it’s been a long time so I can’t be certain now—my recollection is that he [Perry] got the dimensions off the x-rays and it was too long a piece to come in any way from that bullet [CE 399].

What should I be looking for in the National Archives or the Weisberg archives?

That again depends on what you want. What do you think can best amplify the work that you’ve done, or can best add to the significance of what we know.

One of the things that I discovered in the Archives exists in only one form. I was tracing the Executive Sessions. After the Executive Session of January 22 when they let their hair down and said, “Oh mamma mea, the FBI is doing us in,” and they decided to destroy that. But they forgot to get the steno typist’s tape. And the only thing they had was a memo that Rankin wrote, a six-page memo, on all sorts of things that make no difference. Plus one sentence, that does make a difference. [Dallas District Attorney Henry] Wade was telling the story of Oswald being a FBI agent that [Houston Post reporter] Lonnie Hudkins gave a different version of. Lonnie Hudkins told me he made up that story because he didn’t want to be accused of two-timing the FBI and because he thought the FBI was tapping his phone. So he made up the number S-179. But Rankin wrote that the number was 110669. And there is no mention of 179 in it. Now, there has to be some other information on that.

So Rankin mentioned an FBI informant number that was different than what Hudkins had?

He [Hudkins] made it up. He said they used two numbers, S-179 and sometimes S-172. Now that is not consistent with any FBI numbering system. The FBI informer numbering systems begin with a two-letter code for that office, a four-digit main number, and then a letter or more than a letter at the end. For example, Chicago would be “CG” and then 1, 2, 3, 4 would come next, and then the last letter would be either “S” for security or “C” for criminal. Things like that.

This was in a memo Rankin wrote on January 24, 1964, following a meeting with the Texas Board of Inquiry. I think you can find it better in my files than at the Archives.

How should one go about researching your files?

I have three sets of files: One is the documents as I received them from the government. They have nothing changed, they are in the same binder, no markings added. Two, there is a copy I made for what I call the “Subject File.” You can go to that and go through it and see what subjects interest you. But do it with the understanding that there could very well be other copies. In addition to that, I’ve got my own work, for example these 25 manuscripts, and I’ve kept all my correspondence with everybody. Then there are also my files on the lawsuits. They contain a lot of information. Then there are two file cabinets on my administrative appeals. So, you could spend the rest of your life working in those files.

Was Francis Adams an honorable man?

I think so. I have no proof of it, but I think so. I think that is why he disappeared so suddenly. He was in charge of that section that Specter wanted to be alone in. He [Adams] was not going to do any framing for them. What Specter did is debasing as hell.

And Francis Adams knew that and backed away from it?

He knew where they were going and he wanted to get out of it.

What could show that that is the reason why Francis Adams left?

I don’t know. It could have been a compromise they worked out, he had to return to his normal life, something like that. But I don’t think there’d be many memos that would still exist.

Do you think if I found some surviving relatives of Francis Adams that they may have some papers of his?

Yes, there may be. Francis Adams had a prominent political life in New York. You might see if any of the New York colleges has a deposit of his records or if you know where he went to college or law school, they might. If he has something there that’s not in the Commission. He may have written a memorandum to himself afterwards and marked it confidential or something.

What do we know 40 years later?

We know what we knew the first day: that the president was killed but we don’t know by whom. Beyond that it is conjecture. Except on the framing. Except on the fallacy of the investigation, on the lack of any investigation really. And what couldn’t be true.

We started off on my part in this. What I went through that you wanted to take up. We’ve mentioned some of the talk shows; I think you’ve got some experiences on that that are worthwhile. They helped you do your own thinking. There may be people you’ve interviewed who have done that. Like me and Carrico. What Carrico told me was actually in his Warren Commission testimony, but they ignored it. And that number assigned to Oswald. The significance would be that if that was Oswald’s number, we still don’t know. But it is consistent with CIA numbering; it is not consistent with any kind of FBI numbering.

Why would the government recruit a guy like Oswald?

It wouldn’t be the government; it would be the FBI or the Agency. That’s a good question. He could serve as a provocateur, but he couldn’t have served as an informer. What could he inform on? How you clean coffee-making machines [Weisberg this time was referring to Oswald’s brief employment with the Reilly Coffee Company during the summer of 1963 in New Orleans]?

Anti-Castro activities toward Cuba? Gun running?

He knew nothing about those. There is nothing he could inform on. He was not in a position to learn anything that anyone would give a damn about. Not even from the FPCC.

Then why would they have hired him?

That’s the question. I don’t know why they would. Much evidence is consistent with him being some kind of an agent, but proof of it lacks. And one thing that always happens with an agent is money. And Marina said he never had an extra penny. So it just looks like it, but it’s not proven.

What about mysterious deaths? Penn Jones?

Well intended and paranoid as hell. Nothing of what he said could be dependable. Because even when he had it right, he also had it wrong. Penn wound up believing I was a CIA agent. That was when I prevented a bigger disaster that was coming from Garrison. [According to Penn] no matter what Garrison said, it was right, no matter how wrong it was. When I was down in Dallas, his wife told him to write me a check [for money Penn owed to Weisberg]. He wanted the check back because he thought I was a CIA informer. I sued the CIA. I sued the FBI. You do that as a CIA informer?

Six Seconds in Dallas?

It was all right. It really added nothing new, except the sketches of the [Abraham Zapruder] pictures. Everything in that book he picked up from Whitewash II [1966].

Crossfire?

That isn’t about the assassination. That is really about the theories. Jim Marrs [the author], I understand is a nice guy, but he can’t even get the theories straight. I’ve got very classic illustrations of that. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing. He teaches a course on the assassination and he doesn’t know A from B. But I understand he’s a nice guy.

High Treason?

The pictures of the autopsy may or may not be doctored. But I’ve got the black and white pictures. I haven’t done anything to try to compare them. Of course, [Robert] Groden [co-author with Harrison Edward Livingstone] had them. The color pictures I did not have. They were not leaked [to selected critics, as the black-and-white photos were]. The color pictures Groden must have stolen from the House Committee when he was there. But, uh, it is “high” but it’s not “treason.” Like so many others, he began with a theory that he thought he’d commercialize and make some money out of.

Mortal Error?

That’s the biggest disgrace of all in some ways. He [Howard Donahue] knew that was not possible. I exposed it when it first appeared in the Baltimore Sun magazine section. The guy who wrote that wouldn’t go any farther. But he gave it to Donahue, then another guy [Bonar Menninger]. And he [Donahue] came to see me. I invited him up and he came on a Sunday with his wife. And I told him, “Pictures disprove what you’re saying.” He showed me what he had written and I disproved it. I disproved it point by point and I told him what pictures. I loaned him something and he returned it to me. I got a letter from his wife saying how impressed they were and how much they valued what I had told them. Next thing I knew, the book was out. I got a book manuscript about that. I did that chiefly in the interests of [Secret Service agent George] Hickey. He filed a report. And his report refutes everything that Donahue was saying. So did all the other reports. Every report refutes it.

Why would a book like that be published when it doesn’t make sense?

Because it’s what can be published. What’s true can’t be published. Remember what I told you about that second publisher, who said to me, “Perhaps if you had gone farther astray.” In other words, if you weren’t talking with real facts, we [the publishers of such books] could apologize for you.

So the wilder it is, the more likely it will be published.

Yeah. That’s been the history of it.

What about Jean Hill?

I have not read her book.

Do you think she was right when she said Specter abused her on the witness stand?

I think she was right when she said the Secret Service said, “We got three shots so there are three bullets.” I don’t think she made that up. These people wrote books when somebody saw the commercial, “Possibilities.” And they got somebody to go for it.

What about Sylvia Odio?

I believe her. I think she is a good person.

Do you think it was Oswald who showed up at her doorstep that night?

No. But I think he looked like Oswald. It could have been Oswald, but I don’t know.

Why would they have introduced him as such?

They didn’t. They introduced him as “Leon Oswald.” That could have been done because they were told. I believe she [Mrs. Odio] said exactly what she thinks. I don’t think she lied. She could have made mistakes. But she is confirmed by her sister.

How did you think James Tague was? Was he credible?

Absolutely.

I found a document in the National Archives about a week ago saying that shortly after the assassination, he demanded money from a local TV station in return for his story.

I don’t believe it. If anything that would have been after the story appeared in the [Dallas] Times-Herald, because he asked for anonymity. But, that’s not material; what’s material is, did he tell the truth? And what I have that you may want in my “Tague” file is an affidavit he gave me to use in the 75-226 lawsuit [in which Weisberg filed suit for the spectrographic analysis of the curb hit by a bullet or fragment that then struck Tague on the cheek].

What other evidence is there that Vicki Adams may be right, that she came down those steps at the same time Oswald was supposed to be coming down and didn’t hear or see anybody?

Unfortunately, all we have is her word on the time.

But she had a woman with her, Sandra Styles, who was never questioned by the Commission.

That’s because they didn’t want any confirmations. Having one was enough; two was worse. She would have had to see Oswald. There were two reconstructions, both very close to two minutes. And they never deposed her [Miss Adams] right away.

The Commission had more important things to do in January, February and March, huh?

Yeah. They had a case to make. And they did what they could to make it.

Why would the Commission want to concoct this theory?

Because it was for national security. If you look in Whitewash IV [1974], I introduce one of [Melvin] Eisenberg’s memos concerning [Earl] Warren’s first meeting with the staff. He said he took the job, even though he knew he shouldn’t have, because if he didn’t, four million people could be killed. So Lyndon Johnson began by leading on all of them into thinking the Russians did it.

But if this was a conspiracy against our own president, why wouldn’t our own government want to find that out?

They didn’t want to find it out, of course. It began with the belief that it was the Soviet Union. And it terrified them.

And if they found that out, they knew it would lead to World War III.

And they knew it would be a nuclear war.

But they had to know that wasn’t true.

They didn’t know what they knew. These people were so tied up in the Cold War that they believed white was black. And intelligent people went for that crazy stuff.

And you believe the Commission did this under the impression that if they didn’t…

It would lead to a war.

Over Cuba?

No, over the Soviet Union. If it was Cuba it would still have been the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union guaranteed to protect Castro.

But your book, Oswald in New Orleans [1967], seems to imply that he was in this anti- and pro-Castro environment.

Yes, he was. He was both. There was no real anti-Castro activity down there and there was no pro-Castro activity. I think that I also said Oswald’s career in New Orleans is consistent only with what intelligence sources call “establishing a cover.” That’s true.

Was that Garrison’s belief too; is that why he felt Oswald was there?

He felt Oswald was innocent even though he charged him as a means of charging Clay Shaw. Garrison said anything at any time to serve his own interests.

How did David Ferrie fit into this?

As far as I know, he doesn’t. Yes, he may have known Oswald. Even though he may not have been in the CAP [Civil Air Patrol] at the time. He was not on active duty for a time. Also, he talked anti-Kennedy talk; said Kennedy ought to be killed. And over that they came looking for him because he and Oswald were in the CAP. So, he fled. But, he never declined to be interviewed. I didn’t try to.

He was connected with Carlos Marcello, wasn’t he?

Not the way they all say. He was connected to Carlos Marcello by working for Carlo Marcello’s lawyer. He did not work for Marcello. It began with Marcello’s immigration case. There was a local lawyer in Washington—Gill, I think his name was—he knew Ferrie. And Ferrie worked out of his office sometimes. He also did investigating for this lawyer. That’s how Ferrie got into the case; he worked for the lawyers. And the lawyer [Gill] told me that, I think he wrote me that, and that letter is one that disappeared from the file when Posner was working on it. It could have disappeared earlier, but I don’t know. But it was made up that he was working for Marcello. The story even appeared in the papers. There is no evidence he worked for Marcello. He did work for the lawyers.

Do you feel the Mafia was connected with this?

No.

The Mafia was losing money in Cuba. They were involved with the CIA to get in there and overthrow Castro.

Not really.

That’s what came out in the mid-70s in the Senate investigations.

Yeah, and it came from the Mafia guys who were involved in it. They said they did it as an act of patriotism. And that’s a little bit different. And they got killed for it. What interest would the Mafia have in getting in favor with the government? A big interest. The approach did not come from Kennedy; it was ordered by Eisenhower. And it was made in August of 1960. I have the CIA’s memorandum on that.

After the story became public, Bobby [Kennedy] asked for an explanation. So Sheffield Edwards [head of the CIA’s dirty-tricks-against-Castro department] went there and he discussed it with Bobby. Bobby asked him for a memorandum on it. I had that memorandum but it was stolen. Then Bobby asked something else of the CIA, another Sheffield Edwards memorandum and that lays it out: that it started in 1960, which was before the election. This was in August; the election was in November. So it couldn’t have been Kennedy. It was numerated to six high officials in the CIA. Nobody else in the CIA knew about it. There wasn’t a single piece of paper in the CIA on it. And the six who did know about it were all high officials in the CIA. They offered money to the Mafia to do it; the Mafia wouldn’t take the money. So, that’s consistent with an act of patriotism. But the government would have been in debt to them. In fact, the government was already in debt to them for them to keep their mouth closed.

What about all the reports of the Mafia officials or higher ups saying in advance that Kennedy was going to be hit?

No, they said he should be hit. They never said he would be hit. They said he should be hit.

What was the purpose of the 26 volumes?

There was a letter that told them [the Commission], they really got to make everything available. It was in the Executive Sessions—I forgot who it was—but he said, “Let’s make it like a magazine. It’ll sell cheaply.” They wouldn’t go for that. And the White House wouldn’t go for that. I don’t know how much influence the White House had on the 26 volumes. But I’m certain that that letter from the mayor of Grand Rapids [who had written the Commission with the suggestion the evidence be made public] laid out what the problem would be if they didn’t do it.

The 26 volumes were a remarkable self-indictment.

The 26 volumes have all the Commission Exhibits in it.

Those were entered into the record during the Hearings.

But then there were also the Commission Documents.

Which were the files that they didn’t use. Well, I don’t know why they did all that. I think one reason was the great masses would mean anybody who is interested would get lost in this.

What was the purpose of the House Select Committee?

That originated by all the stir created by Groden showing the Zapruder film, and gave it all kinds of fantastic explanations, none of it true. He got people excited. That all had to do with it.

Were they really intent on finding the truth?

I don’t know what the Committee members had in mind. But [Chairman Robert] Blakey made it clear, “We have no such intentions.”

His conclusion in his book was that the Mafia was behind it.

Sure. He began with that preconception. They got more records from the FBI than I did. But that’s because so many of the records had no relationship to this.

So what was the purpose of the House Select Committee?

It was supposed to bring new evidence to light. But they didn’t even look for new evidence. They just tried to validate the old evidence.

But they did reach a separate conclusion.

Yeah.

That there were two assassins.

Yeah. They did. And no one has paid attention to them since then either. All they wanted to do was prove the Commission was right in saying Oswald was the assassin. And that they said. They said another shot was fired; it didn’t hit. They knew of other shots that didn’t hit too.

But in your Whitewash books, you called for a Congressional investigation.

I did.

But the HSCA was not what you wanted?

That was based on my experience working for a Congressional committee. The committee that I worked for went right down the middle. I said I wanted it [a Congressional investigation] entirely in public. The House Committee was not entirely in public. And stuff that disproved them, they took it secret.

Such as?

I’ll give you one that’s important in terms of the medical evidence. The testimony of [Dr. John} Ebersole, the radiologist. [Dr. James] Humes called Dallas from the autopsy room not much after 10 [pm, November 22]. He [Ebersole] was there and heard him do it. The FBI agents, Sibert and O’Neill, Sibert left the room when he saw the size of the fragments in the head. They were very small. That shouldn’t happen with military ammunition. He went over to the phone in the other room and spoke with the [FBI] lab and that’s where he learned that a bullet had been found on the stretcher, which it wasn’t. He got the hint right away; he dropped the subject. Never came back to it and he did NOT include it in his report. And it was not in the FBI files that it was supposed to be in. But he wrote a memorandum on that to the House Committee.

You see, all these things are important. Every one of them disproves the House Committee’s story. Disproves the whole official story on the autopsy.

Why would the doctors have been coerced into doing this?

Because the hospital [Bethesda Naval Hospital] gets a lot of money from the government, and it would have been ruinous to the hospital.

But they will say it was Jackie Kennedy who selected that hospital for the autopsy.

As a matter of fact, it was that. But it was really because she took {Admiral George G.] Burkley’s [President Kennedy’s personal physician] advice, which was the worst possible advice. But sending him to Walter Reed wasn’t much better.

Why wasn’t he [Burkley] called as a witness?

Because of what he would testify to. What’s in his death certificate. As a witness he would have destroyed the whole frame up.

But why wouldn’t they pay him off, or gotten to him as they may have others?

I really think that depends on person-to-person. Some people might do what they want in a different form than what they wanted and take their money for it. Some people might not. Some people would be inflamed by an offer of a bribe of any kind. And they knew perfectly well that he wasn’t bribable. So you just put it [the death certificate] someplace else. You just put it where nobody would figure looking for it.

But this would be so widespread. You had to have Dallas police that would know about this?

No. No. They were satisfied to be off the hook and they didn’t want any trouble where they live. The Radical Right in Dallas were capable of anything
.
The Sheriff’s Department?

They had a little bit, but they stuck to the official story. I interviewed [Deputy Sheriff] Alan Sweatt; I spent a half a day with him. And he told me he had pictures that nobody’d seen. Why didn’t he give them to them? He was critical of the official investigation by the Warren Commission, but not of the Dallas police. And there was rivalry between the sheriff and the police. He was a little bit critical of the Dallas police too; he told me how those bullets [the bullets recovered from Oswald’s pocket when he was arrested] were just in a desk drawer till 8 o’clock at night and the same is true of the revolver. Yeah, he was critical of them. Yeah. But, most of the criticism was against the Warren Commission.

Why was Kennedy killed?

To change national policy.

Did it?

Yes. Dramatically and immediately.

Such as?

Kennedy was setting a new Vietnam [policy] that was consistent with getting us out of there. That thing was altered and made consistent with us staying there. And that was done within a week. I mean it was approved within a week.

What else?

He was for peace. And he was negotiating it from within a strange way with Khrushchev. They exchanged some 40 letters as they grew that were kept secret. Do you think Khrushchev preferred the hawk Johnson to the dove Kennedy? No. He [Kennedy] was necessary just to keep us from attacking them.

So they wanted war with Russia?

Who? The people who changed it? Sure. They did not want peace with Russia. Whether they wanted war was something else. But they did not want peace. All those careers, all those promotions depended on an active military. People wanted the policy changed. They wanted a landlord in Asia, for one thing. The military did, and spelled it out for Kennedy. And [when the military did] Kennedy just got up and said, “That’s the end of the meeting.”

What about Bobby Kennedy?

Bobby followed John pretty much. But he had changed from a hawk to a dove.

Do you think he was killed for that too?

Sure. He wasn’t killed before then. The Mafia wanted to kill him, according to that crazy story somebody made up. As soon as Bobby took office he went after the Mafia. Why did they [the Mafia] wait almost three years?

So you think he was killed because he was going to be following his brother’s footsteps?

Not on the Mafia or national policy. If the Mafia was behind it, they would have done it sooner. They would have done it earlier, before a lot of the Mafia people went to jail

So Bobby was killed for the same reasons as his brother?

Sure. And you can argue the same thing is true of [Dr. Martin Luther] King. I don’t think so. But you can argue it.

Why was King killed?

I think King was killed because he changed from watching and praying, to demands for the needy. He knew and appealed to the conscious from the day there was a conscious to appeal to. But he did come out against the Vietnam War. And he did get the Nobel Prize for it. I mean, he got the Nobel Prize after it; he got it for a combination of reasons.

What was [Bill] Boxley’s role in all of this?

That’s a strange story. He was recommended to Garrison and Garrison hired him as an investigator rather than as a semi-employee on the Garrison payroll that these people were contributing to. Because he had been in the CIA. And because he was bright. And he was a dedicated man; he was really dedicated to Garrison. He would have never come up with some of those memos, never even thought of it if they weren’t in support of Garrison. And he made them up. He was always very secretive about everything. I caught him lying once. And he apologized and said it was just a simple mistake.

Was Garrison legitimate?

He may have believed he was. I don’t know how sick he was. But he was a great disappointment. A great disappointment. Because he impressed me very much to begin with. And even when he was lying, he was very impressive. And I told you what his explanation was when I pointed out these things to him that were not true. He was a plagiarizer, I’ll tell you. There is an unknown story about Garrison. One day when Garrison was in town, I got a call that woke me up and said, “The boss wants you to come out to the house and talk with you for a while. Can you do it?” And I said, “Oh sure.” So I drove down there and he was preparing a speech. To be delivered to the press association in Los Angeles. And he wanted my opinion of it and he read something to me. The one thing he plagiarized from was the introduction to, the forward to Photographic Whitewash [1967]. And I looked at him and said, “Jim. Do you have Photographic Whitewash?” “Wouldn’t be without it,” he said. He turned around and there it was on the wall behind him. He gives it to me. And, he plagiarized it from page 9. He said, “I knew I read it someplace.” And I said, “Well, Jim, I don’t mind your using it. I’d like you to use it. It’s a good line.” I can remember approximately what he was talking about: people thinking Johnson was behind the assassination. I said, “Jim, you’ll never have proof on that. Write it down and use it. You’re going to fluff it again.” And that’s exactly what he did.

[The line Weisberg is referring to is: “No matter how pure his motive, no matter how humble his gathering of fagots (if it is humble he is), they stoke a witch’s cauldron and he is thought MacBeth.”]

So, he not only plagiarized what I wrote in Whitewash on [Dean] Andrews, he plagiarized the concept of Oswald. He’d just take on things and improvise on them, and sometimes they couldn’t be recognized by the time he got finished improvising.

But he made wild statements though, didn’t he?

Wild as hell. Unbelievable.

That did more damage than it did good?

It did. It damaged everybody’s credibility. It damaged any lingering media interest in the assassination, and there wasn’t very much, but there was by some individual reporters.

Didn’t he know that that was damaging?

If he did, he didn’t care. He must have figured he’d get a conviction. He had no case at all. When it came to the hard evidence, he let other people worry about that.

What about Clinton, Louisiana?

They [witnesses in Clinton] were impressive. I met them. I spent part of the day with them. But it could not have been Shaw [supposedly identified as driving the car containing Ferrie and Oswald]. I was up in Clinton, and Oswald did in fact apply for a job there. But they have no record of it. At least they told me they had no record of it. But, it doesn’t make sense. If Shaw wanted to get him [Oswald] a job anywhere, including New Orleans, all he had to do was pick up the phone.

Why would Oswald have wanted a job in Clinton, Louisiana?

The story is that Clay Shaw was getting him a job. He would not have wanted one in Clinton. He would have been lost there. It’s a small town. The streets weren’t even paved when I was there. It doesn’t make sense. They’re making up a story that’s not going to be questioned; they knew that to begin with. So, they don’t worry about it.

Why did Oswald go to Russia?

That’s a good question. And I don’t know. But it could have been to write Animal Farm. It could have been that he had a genuine interest in seeing what this system was. It could have been in the hopes of becoming an informer when he came back. We don’t know.

And so, what’s left?

The only thing that you can reasonably hope for is for you to develop more proof that it was a deliberate frame-up. That it was deliberately not an investigation. I don’t think it is possible that there is any real lead to the real assassins that exists in the government record.

But does the government know who did it?

I don’t know. I doubt it. They may have reached the same conclusion I did. But they would not be the ones who would say they did it. It would have to be those who were opposed to it.

What’s your conclusion?

My conclusion is that it is a combination of my amending the Eisenhower phrase, the “military-industrial complex.” I made it the “military-industrial-intelligence complex.” I don’t think, for example, that the military would have done that [murder Kennedy] as a deliberate decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nor do I think it would have been done as a deliberate decision within the CIA. But that doesn’t mean that “freelancers” couldn’t be from the CIA or from the military, or from industry. The statements of some of those people that I drew together would take the hair off your chest. Unbelievable. Openly in defiance of Kennedy’s policies. Openly insubordinate, and insubordinate even of Eisenhower. Insubordinate to Eisenhower, to the face of Eisenhower’s associates. But it doesn’t prove anything. There are people who believe they have the solution; they’re not talking.

Do you believe them?

It depends on what they say and what basis they have for it.

And if the pieces were connected?

Well, a lot of the pieces would have to be connected. But the people who talked about it could be the people who were behind it. If they talked about what they were going to do. it wouldn’t be proof that they did it.

How do you know when you hear things like that what to believe and what not to believe?

It depends on what they use of the official evidence or what is in or not in accord with the official evidence. By the official evidence I don’t mean only the Warren Commission evidence. I mean the FBI evidence that the Warren Commission never got. You’ve got to have a good knowledge of the various forms of official evidence. And if you restrict yourself to that, then you’ve got a basis for comparing. If it’s in violation of that, it can’t be true.

And that’s the way of life.

________________________________________________

My 11/23/2011 interview with John Valeri of The Hartford Books Examiner:

1) Tell us a bit about Victoria Adams and how your discovery of her, after 35 years of searching, inspired you to write THE GIRL ON THE STAIRS…

Actually, “The Girl on the Stairs” was underway before I found Vicki Adams. The idea for it came from Harold Weisberg in 1999. I had stopped at his home on my way back from the National Archives where I had just found a document that proved the truthfulness of Miss Adams, a witness I had been searching for since 1967. Weisberg recognized the significance of the discovery and suggested I write a book about my efforts to find Vicki and what all I had discovered along the way.

My initial reaction was that it wouldn’t be much of a story; after all, the missing witness was still missing. But I started to pull some things together and struggled with some early chapters. Then in 2002 I got lucky and found Vicki.

What she revealed gave me the direction I needed.

As background, when she was 11, Vicki was abandoned by her parents. Much of her early life was spent in foster homes and was influenced by fear. She studied to become a nun after high school and taught at several Catholic schools before ending up in Dallas. At the young age of 22 she was thrown into the nightmare of the JFK assassination.

She was hounded by authorities, yet remained very consistent with what she told them she had seen and done following the assassination. But no one believed her and, despite her pleas for ways to have her story corroborated, no attempts were made to verify her statements. She was automatically disbelieved and discredited, then humiliated and, for lack of a better term, branded a liar. Her fears returned as a result and she basically went underground with her side of the story. Even her best friends were unaware of her involvement.

Not long after I got to know her, she said to me that all she ever wanted in this was for people to know that she had told the truth. That comment gave me the inspiration.

2)What was your first introduction to the idea of conspiracy in the JFK assassination? To what (or whom) do you credit with sustaining your interest in the case for more than four decades?

I was a firm believer in the Warren Report. One day at college, a classmate in my U.S. History course asked me why? I told him I had read the Report (twice actually) and found it to be a convincing account of how the assassination had occurred. He handed me a copy of that month’s Playboy magazine, the February 1967 issue which had an interview with author and critic Mark Lane. I was curious and read it immediately. Lane raised some points that I had never heard before and, although I was skeptical of his comments, I went out that afternoon and bought his book, “Rush to Judgment,” as well as Edward Epstein’s “Inquest.”

The next thing I knew I was interviewing witnesses in Dallas and rummaging through documents in the National Archives.

Without doubt, the man who sustained my interest throughout these many years was Harold Weisberg. I met him at the National Archives very early in my research efforts. He taught me how to do this the right way — relying on facts and documentation rather than speculation and conjecture — and I have tried to follow his guidance ever since. He used to give me what he called “assignments” to do for him when I went to Dallas or the Archives. Writing “The Girl on the Stairs” ended up being his last assignment for me.

3) If asked to summarize the absolute essential evidence that you believe invalidates the Warren Commission’s findings in one paragraph, how would you respond?

In my opinion, what invalidates the Warren Commission’s findings is the very evidence it used to support those findings. One does not lead to the other. This is a hard concept to accept and it was certainly a hard pill for me to swallow. But if you go beyond just reading the Warren Report — the foundation to all this mess — and you look at the evidence the Commission used ostensibly to uphold its conclusions, you find the opposite. It is unnerving to see that much contradiction in an official publication regarding such a historic event. Smart men like those on the Commission are not supposed to make these kinds of errors.

4) What books, other than your own, would you suggest to students of the assassination? Also, what areas of research do you view as warranting follow-up for future generations?

I would suggest the serious student begin with the 888-page Warren Report. Whether you believe what it says or not, it is still the source of everything that has emerged about this subject since 1964. You cannot legitimately discuss the assassination without knowing its foundation.

Then I would pursue books that offer an analysis of both the Report’s conclusions and the evidence that was gathered. “Accessories After the Fact” by Sylvia Meagher, and the “Whitewash” series by Harold Weisberg, are both good choices. “Inquest” by Edward Epstein is also an informative early study of the inner workings of the Commission. There are many books out there, both good and bad, and my philosophy has always been that each one will provide further insight into the subject. Although I read them all, I don’t put much stock in books that offer “solutions” to the crime.

I think two things warrant follow-up by future generations. First, there must be full release of all the documents regarding the assassination. The JFK Records Collection Act of 1992 and the untiring work of the ARRB have made great strides toward getting formerly classified documents out into the public eye. But there are still thousands of pages being kept from us and those are the ones that need to be set free.

And second, I think the acoustics evidence developed by the HSCA needs further work. We have independent acoustics experts in 1979 saying a shot came from the grassy knoll. We have a government-chartered panel disputing that in 1982. Then in 2001, a British scientist criticizes the 1982 tests and reinforces those done for the HSCA in 1979. Unfortunately, that vital issue has been left up in the air. It needs to be resolved.

5) You write that in finding Ms. Adams you also found yourself. In what ways did your investigation mirror a journey of self-discovery? What lessons have you taken with you from your endeavor?

As a youth and much like Vicki, I had this unswerving and unbridled faith that our government could do no wrong. I was a great admirer of John Kennedy and when he was murdered and I was told, this is how it happened, I had no reason to think otherwise. When that college classmate questioned my trust of the Warren Report, I actually started to study the case with the goal of proving him wrong. I never once thought it would end up as it did.

Along the way I met and talked with witnesses in Dallas. I worked my way through hundreds of thousands of documents in the National Archives. I spent hour upon hour invading the homes of noted researchers and authors, asking what I’m sure they thought were very naïve questions. And somewhere in there, things began to change for me. My efforts no longer were just a means to an end; they turned into a rite of passage toward a discovery that things are not always the way they appear. I really wanted to prove that classmate wrong, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it.

As a result, I have become skeptical of everything. That is not to say I distrust everything, but if the subject interests me enough, I find myself looking deeper and studying all sides, some of which I now know are hidden from immediate view. My mentor, Harold Weisberg, once told me you have to look hard in order to find the truth. When I asked him what you do when even that doesn’t seem to work, he said simply, then you have to look harder.

6) In your opinion, what is the solution to this crime—and will we ever know the full truth of what happened that day in Dallas?

The solution to this crime, I feel, is a concerted effort by all of us toward wanting to know the truth. It is important that we know what really happened that day in Dallas. As Americans, we have to join together and collectively go after that knowledge, that understanding. We are talking about America’s history here — what will be taught to future generations of young and impressionable minds. This is far too important an issue to be left unsettled.

The story of Victoria Adams is a prime example of how the truth is out there. You just have to want to find it. A reader once wrote me that Vicki’s tale is simply a microcosm of the Warren Commission’s investigation. Unfortunately, he is correct.
What we have right now are two official versions to this crime: the Warren Commission with its verdict there was no conspiracy, and the House Select Committee, with its decision there most likely was. These are polar opposites being endorsed by two separate bodies of our very own government.

It is tough to be accepted as being honest in a subject that has been replete with so much dishonesty. But what I discovered during my long journey to find Vicki is this: we have not been told the truth about the assassination of our president. That ought to be an embarrassment to us all and it should compel us to do something about it.

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One response to “Interviews

  1. Pingback: Harold Weisberg @ Business as usual or meet the lone gunman

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