JFK, Oswald and the Raleigh Connection: The Outtakes
The following are segments that (rightly so) didn’t make it into the final draft of the November 14, 2012 Independent Weekly article, JFK, Oswald and the Raleigh connection: How researchers uncovered a key event in the assassination.
Errol Morris, the NY Times and the dismissing of the critics
The dismissing of theories critical of the lone nut scenario doesn’t end with the written word. In 2011 the NY Times commissioned the titan of non-fiction film, Errol Morris, to make a short film about the assassination. Morris states, “not because I thought I could prove that it was a conspiracy, or that I could prove it was a lone gunman, but because I believe that by looking at the assassination, we can learn a lot about the nature of investigation and evidence.” His film, Umbrella Man, became an internet sensation, forwarded, posted and tweeted ad nauseum. Morris features respected researcher Josiah Thompson telling the story of the man standing on the Elm Street curb in Dealey Plaza at the precise time and location of the fatal shots. Just as the presidential limousine approached, although it was a sunny, cloudless day, the man opened his umbrella and pumped it several times in the air. Researchers speculated over the years whether or not the man nicknamed Umbrella Man was signaling to the assassins.
Speculation of Umbrella Man’s role in the assassination was strengthened when, in 1975, the Church Committee received testimony from a CIA weapons designer, Charles Senseney. Senseney testified that the agency had perfected an umbrella that shoots poison darts to kill or immobilize a target.
Morris’ film then features Thompson describing the testimony of Louie Steven Witt to the HSCA in 1978. Witt came forward to state that he had opened his umbrella to protest JFK’s father’s support of “Chamberlain and his appeasement of Hitler”. Although Witt’s account of his actions doesn’t match the photographic and witness testimony, Thompson, to the astonishment of many of his fellow researchers, describes Witt’s testimony as “delightful weirdness”. As investigative journalist and Society of Professional Journalists award winner, Russ Baker, writes, “Watching this, one gets the sense that Thompson believes there was no conspiracy in JFK’s death.” Baker continues, “But what the Times implies with this little piece is false. In fact, Josiah Thompson is known for documenting the exact opposite. He wrote a serious investigative book in 1967, “Six Seconds in Dallas,” full of evidence and specifics, in which he concluded there was a conspiracy to kill JFK—involving three different shooters. But the New York Times is not interested in that, only in this new, droll dismissal of another piece of the puzzle.”
The Mockingbird and the Media: Then and Now
In 1977, Washington Post and famed Watergate reporter, Carl Bernstein, wrote extensively on information released by the Church Committee. His article detailing revelations of the committee hearings, The CIA and the Media, appeared in the October 20, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. The article exposed details of Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s effort to control the media. Quoting an unnamed CIA agent, Bernstein wrote: “One reporter is worth 20 agents.”
In recent years, it’s been revealed that CIA assets have worked in various roles at CNN and National Public Radio. Surprisingly even Anderson Cooper was recruited by the CIA. While a student at Yale, Cooper apparently spent summers as an intern at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA as part of a program for students interested in intelligence work. According to a CNN spokeswoman, “His involvement with the agency ended there, and he chose not to pursue a job with the agency after graduation.”
There’s more. Readers of the respected progressive weekly magazine, The Nation, might be surprised to find out that one of their longtime contributing editors, Max Holland, has been a contributing writer to the CIA’s website for over a decade. The Nation describes Holland only as “a Nation contributing editor”, never mentioning that he is also a contributor to the CIA. Does this mean that AC360 and The Nation are vehicles for the brainwashing of the American public? Of course not, but it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Operation Mockingbird ended with the Church Committee and, more importantly, to expect the disclosure of a journalist’s important potential biases.
It’s eerily appropriate that the anniversary of the assassination falls during the week of Thanksgiving, and sometimes on that very day. The fact that average people have taken it upon themselves to search for the truth in the face of ridicule, ad hominem attacks and a hostile media should give us all hope. It’s because of them that over six million documents have been released in the last twenty years with hundreds of thousands still to be freed.
James W. Douglass, in his excellent work exploring the “why” of the assassination, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2008), wrote: “We owe much to the pioneer investigators into President Kennedy’s murder, the truth-telling of many witnesses and the recent flood of documents through the JFK Records Act. The truth is available [for all to see].”
It’s because of people like Raleigh’s Grover Proctor taking an interest in the Raleigh connection that we should find inspiration to not rely on the media or on our government, but on ourselves. All we have to do is trust our, as John Judge, founder of the Coalition on Political Assassination, says, “Cartesian common sense.”
And maybe do what Proctor and others have done: get off the couch and take a trip to the National Archives.