I must confess that for at least the past five years I had been convinced that President Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy of rogue CIA elements. I even touched upon the idea that Lyndon Johnson may have been involved somehow. The questions raised by Oliver Stone in the movie, lead me to questions raised by Mark Lane in his books and countless others. And I bought into it. It was revenge for the Bay of Pigs disaster. Nixon was somehow involved. Howard Hunt was one of the tramps in Dealey Plaza. Back and to the left! Maybe Bush Sr was involved. Perhaps the CIA stole the President’s brain! I didn’t really spend time entertaining the other theories – the Israelis, the ‘military industrial complex’, the Mafia, the Cubans, the Soviets, the Federal Reserve – but nevertheless the circle of blame grew every day. Half of the US was involved in the assassination, by the time I reached 2012 Hell, I even wrote an article on it. It took me a while to realise there was no hard evidence for any of it.
Then, earlier this year – with the help of the wonderful Vincent Bugliosi – I came to the realisation that Oswald was the lone gunman. I looked over testimony, hard evidence, Oswald’s own actions – which are often neglected or skirted around by conspiracy theorists – and concluded that there was absolutely no conspiracy directly related to assassinating the President. There just wasn’t. I am however convinced that the conspiracies that have progressed since November 22nd 1963, were the result of FBI incompetency and attempts to deflect attention away from the failures of the Bureau.
It is clear from the evidence that Oswald was known to the FBI for months leading up to the assassination. They knew he’d visited Mexico City, and wanted to flee to Cuba to assist the Castro administration. They knew he had defected to the Soviet Union and openly hated the US. They had twice attempted to speak to Oswald whilst he was at Ruth Paine’s house, but missed him. Special Agent James Hosty of the FBI was the agent tasked with investigating the Oswalds. Hosty testified:
“I had in fact on two occasions been to the house where his wife lived, once on November 1 and then again on November 5. The purpose of these visits was to make preliminary contact — introduce myself and establish the identity, address, and place of employment of the subject in the case, which was a counter-espionage concern. In these initial contacts with Marina Oswald, I was hoping to set up a time to conduct an in-depth interview with her. Both Oswalds — he being a former Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and then returned the United States, she a Soviet citizen — made for a classic counter-espionage case. The question was: Could either of the Oswalds be Soviet intelligence agents? In November 1963, the Bureau had no direct information that the Oswalds were Russian agents, but this was the height of the cold war, and for national security purposes we had to be prudent.”
– There’s no reason to doubt this, and it seems a reasonable position for the Bureau to hold at the height of the suspicions of the Cold War. Oswald didn’t take to kindly to the FBI visits. He left a hand written note (to Special Agent James Hosty) that – according to the receptionist that day – read:
“Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don’t stop bothering my wife”
– Marina was questioned by Hosty, in relation to Oswald’s communist connections. Hosty also questioned many other suspects and their families, and didn’t realise the note was from Oswald at first. Gordon Shanklin was James Hosty’s superior at the FBI. Hosty had told Shanklin that the note was “typical guff”, believing it had been written by a right-winged subversive that he’d interviewed the wife of days before. Shanklin responded:
“What do you mean, ‘typical guff’? This note was written by Oswald, the probable assassin of the president, and Oswald brought this note into this office just ten days ago! What the hell do you think Hoover’s going to do if he finds out about this note!”
– The note was destroyed by Hosty, on orders from his superior, Gordon Shanklin, when Oswald was named as the prime suspect in the Kennedy Assassination.
Shanklin knew that in his town, a man had threatened to blow up the FBI building, had at one point defected to the Soviet Union, had attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker a few months earlier, and yet his details were not passed onto the Secret Service, nor did the Bureau work to keep Oswald as far away from the President during his trip to Dallas as he absolutely should have been. The FBI essentially drew a massive target on the President in Dallas.
Oswald; a man who should have been handled by the FBI that day, slipped through the net, and assassinated the President of the United States of America, in Shanklin’s back yard. That is beyond incompetence. It represents the very essence of a failure beyond anyone’s comprehension.
Hoover knew that had it came to light that the FBI had knowledge of the danger Oswald presented, and that they could have, and absolutely should have prevented Oswald from having any opportunity to even catch a glimpse of the President in Dallas, he would be out of a job. The biggest failure in law enforcement history up until that point had happened on Hoover’s watch. And this is a job and an institution that Hoover had made his own. He wasn’t about to let it all die with three shots in Dallas.
Hoover had seen the capture or killings of several high profiled gangsters in his career. Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly for example. He’d expanded the Bureau’s recruitment drive, was at the front of intelligence gathering during World War II and the Cold War with the Venona Project, the covert COINTELPRO initiative, and other massive expansions of FBI power. By the 1960s, each FBI Special Agent in Charge had a drawer of files on field agents that never made the official record, so to keep a distance between their potential misdeeds, and J.Edgar Hoover. Hosty noted:
“the Hoover FBI… The absolute privacy of this drawer afforded Hoover “plausible deniability” ”
– For 30+ years, J.Edgar Hoover was the FBI, and vice versa.
Hoover’s ego was greater than the FBI itself. He had carved the position out of nothing, and became the chief law enforcer in the nation’s history. For Hoover, that legacy also threatened to be a victim, shot down by Lee Oswald that day. And those FBI agents like Hosty, and Shanklin in Dallas knew it. Their mishandling of Oswald could lead to the fall of the Director of the FBI, and would put the Bureau itself is jeopardy. Hoover was never going to risk that.
Hoover had told people privately that he feared that the Warren Commission was out to embarrass the FBI. Former assistant director of the FBI, William Sullivan later said:
“Hoover did not want the Warren Commission to conduct an exhaustive investigation for fear that it would discover important and relevant facts that we in the FBI had not discovered in our own investigation, [since] it would be greatly embarrassing to him and damaging to his career and the FBI as a whole.”
– He isn’t talking about a grand conspiracy to murder the President, he’s talking about the very fact that a man known the FBI, a man who had threatened to blow up their building, and had Soviet and Castro sympathies was allowed to go to work in a building that directly overlooked the path the President’s motorcade was taking that day in Dallas. The FBI should have stopped the assassination well before it had the chance to occur. They didn’t. They, and ultimately J.Edgar Hoover were responsible for the death of the President.
There is not one shred of verifiable hard evidence that suggests a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Only conjecture and mostly weak understanding of the actual facts. Believe me, it’s taken me a long time to get to that stage of reasoning. There is however a mountain of evidence that points to Oswald as the lone assassin. This evidence often gets lost and creatively reinterpreted due mainly to a clear attempt by the FBI to deflect blame from itself and to not reveal the extent of the knowledge they had on Oswald prior to the assassination. This was Hoover trying to rescue his legacy from its darkest hour. From that, conspiracy is born.
We do not know if John Kennedy would have made a great President. He was certainly on the road to greatness. His rhetoric was impassioned, brilliant, and engaged the World. The youthfulness of Camelot seemed to echo the new and vibrant generation of the 60s. Kennedy’s life was cut short in the middle of his first term, with those horrific few seconds etched on Zapruder’s film for posterity. We will never know what could have been had Kennedy lived. Had the FBI done its job correctly that day, history could have been very different.