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tv   American Artifacts Warren Commission Records  CSPAN  November 30, 2020 8:02pm-8:58pm EST

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>> 50 years ago on september 24, 9064, chief justice earl war and handed a report of the president's commission on the
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assassination of president kennedy to president lyndon johnson in the oval office. >> the seven commissioners pictured here with president johnson and general counsel rankin concluded that lee harvey oswald acted alone in killing president kennedy. the warren commission work for nine months in this billing, the washington office of the vfw. a short walk from the supreme court and the u.s. capitol. we set up a camera and a fourth floor conference room to talk to investigative journalist philip shenon whose book "the secret history of the kennedy assassination" examines the warren commissions work using key phone calls, documents, and aftrtifacts. this to shame talks about some of the lingering controversies regarding the report. first, we take a brief tour of the former warren commission offices. >> high, i am brian summers. you are in the building of the veterans of foreign wars washington, d.c., at 200 maryland avenue. the commission met for nine months. we are in ketchum hall where so
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much of the testimony from witnesses and those met here in this historic building. it was in this room here and his floor of kitchen hall but that the warren report saw zapruder film. committee meetings would've taken down here in may of 1964. lee harvey oswald's brother was here in february of 64. marina oswald was here in february. much of the work was done up here in the fourth floor as we will see. we're on the fourth floor which houses the u.s. capital historical society. we are now on the fourth floor of the u.s. capitol historical society, where in 1964, this would have been the working floor for the warren
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reportcommission. i am going to show the office of chief justice earl warren. this would have been his death and his chair. -- his desk and his chair. >> you're pretty sure this was his chair? guest: absolutely. we have a lot of information on it. from the vfw itself, and proof this was it. as a came to the society. >> we are less than 150 feet from the supreme court where he worked every day and then came here in the after hours to see how the investigation was going on. i fyf you glance out the window, you can see the proximity to the court and the building here would be into his choosing. this being the office of chief justice earl warren, this was the conference room table that existed in his area of the office at that time. just next door to chief justice earl warren's office was the office of occupied staff. arlen specter pointed out this was the office that he and another associate worked in as they were investigating the
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death of the president in 1964. so now we are entering the conference room of what at that time would have been the warren commission investigating the death of the president. much of the building we inherited from the veterans of foreign wars. and we inherited the furniture from the 1960's. >> i think this room was used for individual witness interviews, smaller scale interviews. the less critical witnesses. if there was a very important witness and several of the commissioners were in attendance, i understand it was held downstairs in the larger conference room. but a tremendous amount of business was transacted in this room. i wrote this book because my first book was a history of the 9/11 commission. and i had covered the 9/11
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commission investigation for the new york times from start to finish. after went out of business, i discovered there was a lot about the story i had missed. i learned this by going and interviewing a lot of the staffers who had done the actual digging of the 9/11 commission. so that book was published in 2008. after the book got some nice reviews, i got a telephone call in the washington bureau of "the new york times, " the caller was a somebody i didn't know, but he was a very prominent american lawyer who explained he had begun his own career about 50 years earlier on the staff of the other great commission to investigate a national tragedy which was the warren commission. he suggested i do a similar history of the warren commission. he promised to help so long as i kept his name out of this, because he knew i would discover some embarrassing material that he did not want to be associated with, and he was right about that. but off i went. and i thought, had an
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interesting book project that might take me a couple of years to do. it turned out to take five years, because it turned out to be such a complicated morass of missing evidence, covered up evidence, so much of the story of the kennedy assassination really have just never been told. >> we're gonna look at some artifacts. the first thing we have here is, well, there is a picture of the warren commission. >> this is the oval office september, 1964, or six that we 50 years ago in wich earl -- in which earl warren is heading the final report to president johnson. perhaps we had better point out the other commissioners. the former president of the world bank. gray haired eminence in washington for a long standing. next to him is jay lee rankin, who was the general counsel of
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the warren commission who ran the staff. he was the solicitor general in the eisenhower administration. next to him is senator richard russell who would sign the warren commission report even though it became clear in the years after the commission went out of business, russell did not agree. he thought there might well have been a conspiracy in kennedy's death. next to him, is gerald ford who would go on to become president, who was at the time a powerful house republican. it would later be learned that ford had volunteered to be a secret informant for the fbi on the warren commission to share information with the fbi quietly. ford would it knowledge that years later. next to him, chief justice warren, president johnson. next to johnson is allen douglas, the director of central intelligence for many years who would be forced out of that job by the debacle of
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the bay of pigs. it appears that dulles had a terrible conflict of interest by serving on the warren commission. among other things, it appears dulles knew about the cia plots to kill fidel castro. he may have ordered some of those. apparently he shared none of that information with the warren commission, even though that information might have given, suggested paths of investigation the commission should have followed. next to him is john sherman cooper, a senator tap from kentucky, republican, moderate republican. next to him is congressman hale boggs of louisiana who was prominent in the democratic leadership of the house. and was very close to john kennedy. >> we are 50 years later. how should we mark that day? they were anniversary of the release of the warrant report. >> we should mark it with mixed
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feelings. unhappily, this report that was hailed at the time as the definitive report of this kennedy sassy ideation and the questions asked about the kennedy assassination appears not to have been that. it is remarkable to discover that the president who received the report that day, lyndon johnson, ultimately decided the warren commission had it wrong. at the end of his life, lyndon johnson believed that fidel castro had killed president kennedy. and that the warren commission had somehow been misled. it's a remarkable thing to discover that the president of the united states who commissioned the warren commission did not believe the findings. >> president johnson is thrust into power by the assassination. his initial instinct is not to have a federal investigation of the assassination. as it turns out, a presidential assassination in 1963 was not a federal crime. >> if there was going to be a trial, it would have to be arranged by local and state officials in texas. johnson did not want say as he
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said a bunch of carpetbaggers, to go into his home state of texas to run the investigation. he wanted it held by the officials in dallas. within days of the assassination, conspiracy theories started to spin. some of them focused on lyndon johnson as a suspect in the murder. johnson said essentially, these conspiracy theories are spreading so wildly that i have to bring it into it and have to bring an end to it by in independence commission based in washington to investigate all that could be learned about the assassination and about this man lee harvey oswald who was apparently the presidents assassin. and johnson settles on chief justice earl warren, as the only man who can run this. warren was a very controversial figure in 1963. but he was also much admired for his independence and his personal integrity. and he was a republican. and johnson wanted a republican to run this investigation to
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show that it was truly bipartisan and truly an effort to get at the facts, whatever they might be. johnson also decides that he wants representatives from the house and the senate. to serve on the commission. and he decides that he wants a essentially as his own representative on the commission one of his best friends in the world, senator richard russell. probably the most powerful man in the senate in 1963. chairman of the senate armed services committee. and a fierce segregationist. a man who, if you load anybody in washington, d.c., loathed earl warren who was leading the supreme court on civil rights and civil liberties rulings that russell felt have the potential to destroy the southern way of life. and would bring desegregation to the south and destroy his homeland. on the afternoon of friday, november 29, exactly a week after the assassination,
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russell is called by president johnson and asked if he will serve on this commission. it is not referred to as the warren commission. since it hasn't been announced that the chief justice will lead it. russell declines, claims he is suffering from emphysema. and has too much to do in the senate. johnson listens to him. hangs up the phone. and decides that even though russell does not want to serve, he will serve. and johnson then has the white house press office isseue a statement to the white house press corps announcing the commission has been formed and that richard russell is on its even if he does not want to be. [taped] >> i hate to bother you again, but i want you to know i have made an announcement. >> announcement?
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what's >> of the special commission. >> married to? you >> the president announced he is appointing a special commission to study and report on all of the facts and circumstances relating to the assassination of the late president john f. kennedy and subsequent violent death of the man charged with the assassination. >> the president says that the minority and the majority leadership of the house and the senate have been consulted. with respect to the special commission. the members of the special commission are chief justice earl warren, chairman, senator richard russell, presented representative hale boggs, representative gerald ford. , number -- -- the president stated that the special commission is being constructed to did i wait all available information concerning the subject and inquiry.
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wait all available information concerning the subject and inquiry. the federal bureau of investigation is making complete investigation of the facts. >> russell was justifiably flabbergasted. russell had told johnson he did not want to serve on this commission, he could not serve. >> mr. >> serve on that commission. it johnson used similar set of strong-arm tactics on the chief justice. johnson settles on warren as the only man who can run this investigation. when warren gets the invitation, he turns it down flat. he says there is a terrible history of supreme court justices serving an outside investigation. he does not have the time. johnson settles on warren as the only man who can run this investigation. when warren gets invitation to
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surf, he turns it down flat. he thinks the commission is a fine idea but it should but not be led by him. when johnson gets word that warren has turned down the invitation, warren is summoned within hours to the oval office. and unfortunately, we, to the best of our knowledge, there is no recording, but apparently the president tells warren in no uncertain terms that the assassination may lead to a nuclear war that would kill 40 million americans. and that if that happens, it may be the responsibility of the chief justice unless he serves on this commission. an apparently this confrontationd leaves the chief justice in tears but agreeing to run the investigation.
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>> this is an artifact that the national archives allowed us to videotape. oswald's guide map to mexico city. what is that? >> to my mind, there is what in many ways is the untold chapter of the kennedy assassination story, which is what happened when lee harvey oswald traveled to mexico city just several weeks before the assassination? i got to admit that when i went into the reporting on this book, i did not know anything about this incident in mexico city. this trip. but it may be very important. it's very clear to me that both the cia and the fbi were determined not to to draw what happened in mexico city, because it might've revealed just how much they had really known about oswald in the the weeks before the assassination and the threat he might post to president kennedy. it turns out that oswald went to mexico city apparently to get the visas and paperwork that would allow him to defect to cuba. much as he had once tried to
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defect to the soviet union. while in mexico city, while he is under surveillance by the cia in mexico city, he is meeting with cuban spies and russians and several mexicans who are very sympathetic to fidel castro. people who at the height of the cold war might have had some reason to want to see president kennedy dead. and the identity of those people, what oswald told them, and what they told oswald, would never be determined with certainty because the fbi and the cia simply did not try to get to the bottom of it. >> this is what is in the warren report. >> this is the warren commission's best reconstruction of where oswald went and who he might have met within mexico. >> we now know that it meant
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his amount of information about oswald's trip to mexico was never shared with the warren commission. so this is a very incomplete chronology of what went on. >> your book begins with telling the story of a suicide of charles thomas that relates to mexico city. why did you start with that? >> it is a remarkable story. >> in 1955, a year after the warren commission goes out of business, a diplomat, an american diplomat based in mexico city learns to his shock that oswald may have been seen around town, mexico city, in the company of cubans and mexicans who were sympathetic to castro, people who might have wanted to see president kennedy dead. and who oswald may well have been in the company of two young beatnick americans,
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people whose identities have not been revealed. and thomas, apparently very fine man, a very fine diplomat, much respected by his colleagues, thought somebody needed to investigate and go back and see if the warren commission had gotten it wrong and if there was some sort of conspiracy to kill the president and if that conspiracy was hatched in mexico city. and what the story of charles thomas becomes is one of utter frustration. nobody wants to investigate. nobody wants to get to the bottom of this. he keeps asking the question again and again and again. for reasons that are very mysterious at the time, thomas finds his career derailed. he finds himself forced out of the state department for what were later described as mistakes of a a clerical nature. there is some reason to believe that he was asking too many
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questions about what the cia and the fbi knew about oswald in mexico city. it appears that after he is forced out of this, the state department, he is then denied any sort of opportunity to begin a new career because he just cannot get the references from the state department and the rest of the government. towards the end of his life, he does write a letter to the secretary of state william rogers, of then president nixon, asking, pleading that somebody again try to get to the bottom of what happened in mexico city. there is no subsequent investigation. thomas, unable to find a new career, tragically killed himself. two years later. what was their opinion of what happened there? >> what did the warren commission do in mexico city
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>> >> the investigation of mexico city was left largely to two lawyers on the committee. one by the name of william coleman, one of the most prominent african-american attorneys and his junior staff associates who was a very young lawyer, in his early 30's from denver. coleman was preoccupied with his work at philadelphia law firm and was not very much involved with the day-to-day work of the commission. his junior did almost all of the work. he was intrigued by what happened in mexico city and wanted desperately to get to the bottom of what happened down there. unfortunate, what we now know is that a tremendous amount of information of what went on in mexico city was never shared with him, never shared with the commission. i think it is fair to say the commission never got to the bottom of what actually happened in mexico. >> this is an artifact that the national archives allowed us to videotape. it is oswald's address book. that is the cover. then inside is this page.
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consulate of cuba. then name, sylvia duran. >> duran turns out to be a very important figure in all this. the warren commission's staff saw her as a very important figure. she's a young mexican woman, a committed socialist who is the person who dealt face-to-face with oswald while he tried to get the visa and other paperwork from the cuban government that will allow him to defect. there is reason to believe that there was a relationship between oswald and duran that went on outside the walls of the cuban consulate, and that they were seen around town together, including at a party attended by cuban diplomats, some of whom had apparently spoken openly in the past about their hope somebody would kill president kennedy. the warren commission staff, this young fellow, his
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desperate to talk to sylvia duran. to interview her. to find out what she really might know. after much negotiation, it appears that duran will come to washington and agree to be interviewed, but that idea is vetoed by chief justice warren. he says, she is a communist. his words, we do not talk to communists. so this vital witness never questioned by the commission. i tracked her down in mexico. she continued to deny that she had a relationship with oswald. but i'll tell you there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. >> why would the cubans, or some of them, want kennedy to be assassinated? >> this is the height of the cold war. >> >> this is a year. president kennedy cia attempted to overthrow castro.
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we now know, of course, that the kennedy it administration was trying to kill castro. >> another page in oswald's address book available at the national archives has james p. husty. he was the fbi agent who we now know had the oswald's under surveillance weeks before the incineration. he actually went to australia's wife trying to interview her. and on the basis what marina oswald tells lee harvey oswald,
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he writes in his notebook, hosty's name and the license plate of his fbi car. this particular piece of paper in oswald's notebook would create a rift between the commission and the fbi, because it appears the fbi tried to eliminate this a portion of the notebook when it handed the documentation over to the warren commission. it created a typewritten version of oswald's notebook and removed hosty's name. in an effort to prevent the warren commission from knowing that oswald knew that this fbi agent had him under surveillance, that the fbi was monitoring his movements. a very dedicated member of the warren commission staff took the original notebook and this typewritten summary that the fbi had prepared supposedly for the convenience of the commission and went page by page to see if anything was missing. he discovered that the fbi agents name and all of this
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other material had been removed and what appeared to be an effort to hide from the warren commission the fact that the fbi did have oswald under a pretty aggressive surveillance before the assassination. >> there is also a story of an artifact we cannot look at of the letter that oswald wrote to hosty that he himself destroyed. >> that is an amazing story. >> we know know that he was so agitatied that he actually went to the dallas field office of the fbi in early november, 1963, and presented some sort of letter in which he protested the surveillance. people in the fbi office in dallas would later say that oswald appeared to be very angry, maybe even crazy with anger. and left this note.
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after the assassination and after oswald himself is killed, on sunday, november 24, the decision is made in the fbi office in dallas that this note must be destroyed because it is evidence of just how much they had known about oswald. they had been in face-to-face contact with him just weeks before the assassination. and apparently the same agent, agent hosty, flushes it down the toilet. >> is it any surprise to you when you hear about all of these things that there are a million conspiracy theories about --? >> not at all. not at all. and you know, i leave this -- i lead this with the fact that even the craziest conspiracy theory has no basis in fact. . so much basic evidence was destroyed or hidden after the very first hours that the
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president the cutting's body was return to washington from dallas. >> in phone call, johnson said the fbi is going to fully cooperate and help the warren commission. what was it like. a lot had a commission member. what was the relationship like? >> well, the fbi, the cia, all the agencies and government were ordered to cooperate fully with the warren commission when it got underway a week after the assassination. >> it is pretty clear that the fbi and the cia never cooperated fully with the commission. but the commission was a staff of only a couple dozen people. it could not conduct a massive investigation that would need to be conducted all around the country and all around the world if this was to be done properly. he had to depend to some degree on the fbi to do a lot of that. so the fbi was gathering raw material that was shared with the commission.
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the question becomes how much of this evidence the fbi gathered was withheld from the commission? they are a russia language teacher in dallas who befriends marina oswald, invites her and her children to live with her for time -- a time. she would become a key figure in the worn commission investigation. there would be some suspicion that miss payne knew more than she was sharing her she was forthright with the warren commission. >> this artifact is one of the group of artifacts videotaped by the national archives for the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. >> a bullet that was found in the home of general walker. >> edwin walker was a retired
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army general. he'd actually been retired forcibly after creating a stir. with the kennedy administration. he was a far right extremist. who was overseeing extremist groups in the dallas area, a national figure in the segregation movement. and in april, 1963, obviously several months before the assassination, somebody tries to kill edwin walker at his home in dallas. at the time, and for weeks thereafter, it was not clear who the assassin was. it would be determined by the warren commission that the assassin was lee harvey oswald, and that he may well have used the same rifle and trying to kill walker that he would use in daily plans to kill president kennedy. it's marina oswald who says it was her husband who tried to
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kill walker. that he had admitted that to her the night of the assassination attempt. >> were in the offices that the warren commission occupied. did marina oswald come here? >> she did in here, she came here for a few days. >> >> she was here in february, 1964. and she was an important witness because she had made it clear that she thought her husband had killed president kennedy, and she thought he had done alone. she is called back more than once after serious questions are raised about her truthfulness. among other things and her initial interviews with the fbi and the secret service, she denied she had any knowledge of this mexico city trip. it turned out later that she knew all about it before her husband had gone there. >> the so-called magic bullet? what was the significance of that for the commission? >> i think it is probably the
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single most controversial piece of evidence from the >> it is the bullet that the commission staff would conclude had past the bodies of both president kennedy and texas governor connally. that contradicted the initial fbi report on the assassination was found three bullets had landed in the president's limousine. the first one hit president kennedy in the back. the second one hit governor connally in the back. and the third one had president kennedy in the head, which was the fatal shot. but the commission staff determined, using the zapruder film, that oswald would not have had time to fire off three individual bullets into the limousine. if he did not have time, that would suggest that there must
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be one other man in dealy plaza. the staff is committed that oswald acted alone. that perhaps one bullet had passed through both bodies. and that is what the commission staff and i think subsequently a lot of serious scientists and technical teams have determined, that one bullet did pass through the bodies of both men and that this is that bullet. what surprise a lot of people is that this bullet was not much more damaged than it appears to be. it's sometimes referred to as the pristine bullet. it is not fully pristine. sometimes it -- some scientists would say that they were expecting to see much more damage. there are no rules. a lot of ballistic
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investigation is much more art than science. all of the reliable scientific evidence suggested that this bullet did pass through both bodies. >> i think at the end, there is the original -- accompanying the bullet and the description of finding it. >> it falls off the stretcher and it becomes important to the commission staff and especially to arlen specter. the young investigator who is handling a lot of this evidence. but it actually fell from conley stretcher, presumably it had passed through president kennedy spotted before it hit. at the end of the investigation, the commission concludes that it did come from governor connally's stretcher. >> you mentioned an fbi report that make conclusions that came out in december? >> an awful lot of confusion came out of over wet is not 38 of fbi report on this estimation, it is delivered to the white house and the warren
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commission in december, 1963. it is supposedly the result of this most aggressive fbi investigation of all time. the warren commission takes one look, and most of the commissioners decide it is so inadequate, the investigation is so poorly handled that the commission will have to do a much more aggressive investigation of its own. it continues to rely on the fbi to do a lot of its basic detective work, but the relationship between the fbi and the warren commission was very strange. and this report had a lot to do with setting that ugly tone that existed between them through the rest of the investigation. >> how could the nation's leading law-enforcement agencyl with sophisticated labs and experienced agents make a report that these lawyers considered inadequate and sloppy? >> that is a good question. we now know, of course, that the fbi in the era j edgar
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hoover was never as disciplined -- never had the integrity we would've hoped it to have. and the fbi had a big problem after the assassination -- because it turned out the fbi had lee harvey oswald under surveillance. and at times, very aggressive surveillance before the assassination. it became important to jay edgar hoover, who was a force unto himself in that era, to prove that office walt was a lone wolf, that he carried out this is fascination alone, nobody else knew about it, there was no conspiracy. certainly no conspiracy that the fbi could have foiled. he seems determined to prove that, regardless with the facts show. >> this is a model used by the warren commission. >> right, i think this model now exists at a museum that
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used to be the texas depository, but it was used here in the offices to make it easy for people to understand the sequence of events in dealer plaza. you will see small models of cars to indicate where the president's limousine and the other cars in the motorcade. this is arlen specter. at the time, an assistant to strict attorney of philadelphia given temporarily to the warren commission. he is often referred to as the father of the single bullet theory. you can see him demonstrating how the single bullet would have happened, that a bullet passing through the body of this first gentleman who is sitting in for president kennedy, that the bullet would have passed through kennedy and then hit governor connally in the back.
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the commission staff felt strongly from the earliest days that they needed to go to dallas, they needed to try to reconstruct as much of the assassination scene as they could. they wanted to take the rifle, the one that oswald apparently used, they wanted to take it back to the sixth floor of the book depository and affix a camera to the top of it and see what oswald would have seen through the scope of his rifle when he was taking the shots. that is what they are doing here with the assistance of the fbi. it turns out that chief justice warren did not want to do this. he thought it was unnecessary. he did not want to create this media ruckus in dallas. but eventually, he is convinced it has to be done. >> then in the same film that you can download online, is a reconstruction of oswald's movement after the shooting? >> this is a reconstruction of the perch on the sixth floor.
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this is a gentleman leaving the sixth floor and showing how he would've left that floor and left the building. >> they end up following all the way down to a cafeteria where this man sits down to drink a coke. >> why was the timing of him leaving his perch and exiting the building so important? >> because witnesses do encounter oswald in this cafeteria downstairs. the question becomes, did oswald have time to fire the shots, then get from the sixth floor downstairs to the cafeteria where he is seen swigging a soda? the warren commission does that reconstruction and concludes he did have the time to get down there. he is remarkably poised. but that is true of oswald in
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several situations after the assassination. he's remarkably calm and poised and articulate as he denies he had any involvement in the assassination. i would say this about the ballistic evidence, it is a confusing topic. if only because certain experience are done by the warren commission or at least done at their request. and many, many, many have been done in the decades since. it is fair to say that the most reliable scientific evidence shows that the bullets and fragments that can be identified appear to have come from oswald's rifle. >> so, this is one that you requested that we look at, the national archives allowed us to videotape a bus transfer ticket found in oswald's pocket after his arrest. >> this is fascinating because it reflects an investigation
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that was carried out by the warren commission staff but was not reflected in the final report, which is that one of the most aggressive of the young staff lawyers on the commission becomes convinced that oswald was trying to flee, that he had somewhere in mind to go after the assassination. >> this young lawyer, david -- bel len from desmoines, finds this bus transfer from the day of the assassination suggesting that oswald was going to use this to get somewhere in particular. oswald knew the bus routes. he used public transport all the time. and the conclusion was that oswald was going to use the transfer because he knew there was a bus he wanted to connect to. this lawyer comes to the conclusion eventually that oswald might have been heading back to mexico. that's something that happened during oswald's mexico city visit. perhaps he encountered cubans
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or mexicans who offered to help oswald if he could back after the assassination. and as i say, that theory is not reflected in the warren commission's final report because the warren commission leaders, chief justice warren, wanted to rule out speculation and rule out that other people knew about or conspired with oswald. >> what was that dynamic like between someone who had a theory about the bus transfer and the commissioners? was there a lot of tension? >> there was tension. there was not much direct communication. a lot of the young staffers, and these are men, most of whom are still alive and i interviewed them for this book, they were cut off from the commissioner and cut off from the chief justice. there was little interaction with them. that became a matter of frustration. in the case of this business with the bus transfer and the
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theory about oswald going to mexico because somebody had promised to help him, that never gets close to hitting into the final report. it is senior staffers within the commission who ruled that out because the commission does not want to encourage speculation, even though some of the speculation my point to co-conspirators. >> this is the zapruder camera as it is stored at the national archives. >> so, abraham zapruder is a dallas women's where manufacturer who on the day of the assassination wanted to record images of the president's motorcade passing through. dearly plaza. this is below how home movie camera. it turned out that abraham zapruder would capture all of the essential images of the assassination. it's 26 seconds of film. it is the most important piece of evidence that the warren commission had. it documented every essential
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moment of the assassination. it acted as a clock on the assassination. it could suggest when individual shots were fired and when individual shots hit the bodies of president kennedy and governor connally. >> zapruder after the assassination sold the film to "life" magazine. that created an awkward situation where the warren commission did not immediately have access to this vital piece of information. eventually life magazine hands over the initial film so the commission can see it and as i say, i think it is undoubtedly the most important piece of physical evidence the commission had access to. to >> there's another document he told us about in an e-mail, an unpublished memoir by winston scott. >> winston scott was the cia station chief in mexico city in 1963. he was almost certainly more
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powerful than any of the ambassadors in mexico city he served under. he had been there since 1956. he had sources throughout the mexican government. it turned out after the assassination that win scott and his colleagues at the cia station in mexico city had oswald had under aggressive surveillance during his mexico city trip. win scott told the warren commission, when staff members go to mexico city to meet with him, he tells the warren commission that he does not believe there is a conspiracy, certainly no conspiracy that had anything to do with mexico city or the surveillance that scott's staff conducted of oswald. years and years after the assassination, it turned out that scott had decided to write his memoirs.
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and his memoirs, which were declassified only in the 1990's, showed that scott never told the truth. to the warren commission. that he thought there might well have been a conspiracy that involved some communist government. he thought it might be the soviet union. and the reasons for him not tellingn the the truth in 1964 are baffling. i think there is good reason to believe that he knew much more about lee harvey oswald and what had happened in mexico than he ever wanted to share with the warren commission. if only because it would prove that he knew that oswald might be a threat and yet never pass on that information to washington where it might have been used to save the president life. >> towards the end of your book, you mention, there's an eye-popping document from the cia, 132-page summary of what they knew about oswald. >> the cia many years after the assassination puts together
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this incredible chronology. day by day by day. of what they had known about lee harvey oswald. specifically focused on what the cia knew about his travels to mexico. and it showed that the cia had been aware pretty quickly after the assassination, certainly shortly after the warren commission went out of business, that there was much more to the story of oswald in mexico city than had ever been shared with washington. and again, the record shows the cia knew much more about oswald than it told anyone, even to this day. i believe there are still documents about the kennedy assassination, about the cia's knowledge of oswald that are still classified and still under seal at the national archives. >> there is reason to believe that the cia may have had contact in one form or another with oswald while he was in mexico city. i think the cia feared that
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that fact if it had become known that they would've had some contact with all his world, that it would've created a massive scandal for the cia, the scandal that this agency did not want to address. years later, congress would investigate the kennedy assassination, the house of representatives, and they would find witnesses from within the cia who said the cia had photographs of, surveillance photographs taken of oswald during his mexico city trip. it appeared that there were tape-recording from his telephone calls in mexico city. and all of this evidence would never be shared with the warren commission. the cia would claim that the tapes were erased routinely before the assassination and that these photographs never existed. and yet, it appears they may well have existed. >> you begin in your book with mexico city and end with mexico city.
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this is sylvia duran's name in oswald's addressbook. can we know what happened there? >> one bit of hope i have is that there may still be questions to be answered in mexico city. there are people alive to this day who seem to know much more about what oswald was doing in mexico city in the fall of 1963 than they ever shared with the united states government or that they were asked about. a lot of these people seem to have been ignored by the fbi and the cia in 1963 and 1964. and they seem to be able to place oswald in the company of people who may have wanted to see president kennedy dead, who may have encouraged him to go back to texas and do what he did. >> i think the single most eye-popping document i found in all of the work i did on this book, and it is found at the national archives, is a letter
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sent by fbi director j edgar hoover in june 1964, in which he reveals reluctantly that the fbi had come across reliable information to suggest that while talking openly about his intention to kill president kennedy. that he'd actually marked into an embassy, a communist embassy, the cuban embassy, and announced he was going to kill president kennedy. that letter from hoover to the warren commission seems to disappear. i've shown it to members of the warren commission staff, the men who should've seen it, who should have been able to follow-up and investigate in mexico city, and they are convinced they never saw it. if they had seen it, you would think they would go back to mexico and find out who else had heard oswald make that boast. and what they did with that
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information. were there people in mexico city, hearing this man talk openly about his plan to kill the president, encouraged to do that? promised him help, if he could ever get out of the u.s. after killing the president. but the warren commission staff was not allowed to investigate because it appears they never saw this letter. >> this is a video of the government printing office's copy of the warren report. 26 volumes. did this work serve the public well? >> i think unhappily history shows that the warren commission missed a tremendous amount of information, perhaps inadvertently. >> information was hidden from the warren commission. and there is at least the possibility that people around lee harvey oswald knew what he was landing to do and may have encouraged him to do what he was going to do. and conspiracy is a loaded word,
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but that does raise the question as to whether or not there were other people who conspired with lee harvey oswald to kill john kennedy. >> we are sitting in the conference room that the war in commission -- the warren commission used. same bookshelves, the same table. what did the people who asked to write this book what has been a reaction? >> i think a lot of them have been horrified to discover just how much evidence was withheld from them in 1964. i think they all that material had been destroyed or hidden from them way back when. i do not think they knew the extent of it until now. i think a lot of the people, the former staffers who were the people i depended on a my interviews, a lot of them are gratified to see that my book recognizes the fact that most of them were not trying to hide anything. many of them were eager to find a conspiracy. if one existed.
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they really worked their hearts out on this investigation. some of them to the point of physical collapse. i think they're pleased for the fact that history we'll show that they tried to do their jobs well. if the warren commission failed, it was not because of them. they did try to make this work. >> you have written two books about very important commissions in the history of the united states. what lessons can the american public draw from your work about the value of these commissions? >> i tell you the largest conclusion i have come to. which is that both the 9/11 commission and the warren commission investigation were hindered by the fact that politics and politicians played a role that have damaged the reputation of both investigations. i wonder whether or not in the future when we face the next national tragedy, which is doubtless on its way, whether or not we want to have truly independent scholars and historians run these
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investigations. i think that might have served us very well if real historians, real scientists, real technicians got involved in investigation of president kennedy and 9/11 that might have resulted a lot of the conspiracy theories that we still had to contend with.
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>> a few days before tragic death comes to president john f kennedy, he and the first lady are the picture of happiness.


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