The Event That Never Happened
DEALEY PLAZA MEMORIAL SERVICE - Sunday, 11/22/98 THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY. Edited and transcribed by William Kelly
"Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness. Conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity. Acknowledge the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question." - George Bannerman Dealey, publisher of the Dallas Morning News.
CNN news reported that for the first time in 35 years there was to be no memorial service at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1998, the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
CBS News with Dan Rather reported that the Final Report of the JFK Assassinations Records Review Board "did find enough evidence to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only gunman," while the Final Report never concluded any such thing.
Then the Associated Press (AP) reported from Dallas on November 22 that, "JFK assassination hype fades" and that "other than the usual handful of curious people milling about Dealey Plaza, the day was expected to be uneventful..."
Bob Porter of the Fourth Floor Museum told a reporter that nothing was scheduled to happen at Dealey Plaza that day, even though, if he looked out his office window, he could see hundreds if not over a thousand people gathering around the Grassy Knoll for a memorial service in honor of the slain president.
Well, what actually occurred was that from noon until 1pm, the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) took a break from their fifth annual conference at Union Station, two blocks away, to hold a memorial service that was attended by a sea of people who filled the both sides of the street of the entire plaza. Participants in the JFK LANCER conference, also held in Dallas that weekend, also attended, as well as ordinary tourists, interested citizens and passersby.
COPA is an organization composed of three independent groups - the Assassination Records and Research Center (ARRC) of Washington D.C., the Committee for an Open Archives (COA) and the Citizens for the Truth about the John F. Kennedy Assassination (CTKA). They are professional associations interested in developing the truth about the assassination that lobbied extensively for the passage of the JFK Assassination Records Review Act and have met with Cuban officials in the Bahamas to obtain information about the assassination from Cuban sources.
In an address before COPA the previous day, the chairman of the Assassinations Records Review Board, John Tunheim reiterated the Final Report's first paragraph that it "will not offer conclusions about what the assassination records released did or did not prove," and that significant documents were missing and some were even destroyed by federal agencies after the board began its business of identifying and releasing records to the public.
Others who spoke at the COPA conference included Philadelphia attorney Vincent Salandria, history professor John Newman, former FBI agent William Turner and others who have been instrumental in reviewing the recently released documents and attempting to make sense of what the government wants to maintain a mystery.
At noon on Sunday, November 22, 1998, COPA board member, and Washington D.C. attorney Dan Alcorn began the memorial service at Dealey Plaza.
Dan Alcorn : The federal board - The JFK Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) discovered that many of the records have been destroyed, and we do not have a complete record. Yet we have a much more of a documentary record than we have had ever before.
There's a memorial down on the street that has a quotation from the bible: "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
That quote is also inscribed on the wall of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in McLean, Virginia, so there is a commonality of thought there. Many of us are here today because we have never believed that the government has told us the truth about the assassination, and we believe that unless we know the truth, we are not free.
Unless we know the truth about these events we are not a free people and we have not been a free people as long as we have been lied to about the events that occurred here. The spirit of our commemorative event is to take those words to heart, and until we know the truth and the full truth of what occurred in the street before us today on a day very much like today, a clear, sunny day in the fall of 1963.
On behalf of our organization I will make a challenge to you. Everyone here must be here because you care very deeply about the meaning of this event and what it means to our history as a nation. I will make the challenge to you to join us in our efforts in seeking the full truth about the assassination of President Kennedy. And not just the truth as pieced together by citizens who put in the time and effort to this, but to actually cause the government to tell the truth about this event, and for the government to come forward and give us a full and truthful accounting of what happened here in 1963. Otherwise, we in fact are not the free people we want to be, have been and we should be as a nation.
You know, it is a crime for a citizen of this country to tell a lie to a federal investigator, but it is not a crime for your government to lie to you. And we feel this is an unfair relationship. If it's a crime for us to lie to our government, it should be a crime for us t o lie as well.
It is in that spirit of investigation and of honest inquiry that our organization has worked closely with the Assassinations Records Review Board to get materials out. They ran into an obstructive wall of secrecy at the federal agencies. They told us that they ran into a Cold War system of secrecy that refused to relent on the documents and information as it related to this event. And this was thirty-five years after the event occurred, and after a federal board was set up by the Congress to try to get information released about what happened here.
So we call on you to join us in our efforts. We think that great nations and civilizations cannot survive the kinds of doubt and turmoil that have been raised by the events that happened here. If you study the history of great civilizations you will find that when they lost their way in terms of truth, self-governing, democratic and republican institutions began their decline and was one of the reasons for their ultimate collapse. We do not want the decline and decay of our public and political system. We want to be a part of a healthy revival of those institutions.
We have experienced a decline in the public's trust in government since November, 1963, a blimp in the charts that notes the significance of these events. Today a majority of people don't even bother to vote. The largest turnout of voters in American history was in 1960. The decline in public confidence in the government began with the ambush at Dealey Plaza and has continually declined since then. These trends are very troubling.
So we ask you to join us and support the effort we have started to try to pursue the truth of these events, to try to pursue credibility, honesty and openness on behalf of our governmental institutions. And by that effort to try to turn our nation in a healthy direction, to build stronger democratic institutions, to build a stronger faith between the pubic and its government. We feel that is essential, and we call on you as free citizens of this nation to join us in that effort.
I'm going to introduce to you a series of speakers who have been very involved in this issue and can give you the benefit of their experience as well. The first is Mark Lane, one of the earliest researchers in this case who did tremendous ground-breaking work, recorded much of his work for posterity and has written extensively about this case.
Mark Lane: I remember coming here thirty-five years ago and there were no crowds on the grassy knoll. But now, after all of these years, although they have a museum over there on the 6th Floor, which is a museum dedicated to a place where nothing happened. They don't have a plaque over here, on the grassy knoll, and they should.
Thirty-five years ago today the Dallas Morning News published a full page ad with the sarcastic heading: "Welcome To Dallas Mr. President," and then went on to practically call him a communist and a traitor. That was then.
Today's Dallas Morning News has an editorial: "Kennedy's Legacy - The Time Is Ripe For Idealism," with no references to him being a communist or a traitor. Now he's a great man. They'll tell us everything about John Kennedy, everything, except who killed him. Because look at the rest of the Dallas Morning News, thirty-five years later, when every survey in America shows that 75 to 95% of the people are convinced that there was a conspiracy to kill John Kennedy, here we go in the guise of a book review in today's Dallas Morning News: Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy, Oswald Alone Killed Tippit, One Man Two Murders, they're sticking with the same story. I have but one word for the Dallas Morning News:
Shame. Shame on you, you are disgracing the city of Dallas, and it is not fair to do that.
I'll tell you where there should be plaques in this city. There were a number of brave, courageous residents of this city, longtime residents of Texas, who had the courage to speak the truth to power in the face of intimidation and threats. Right over there was Jean Hill, and she's still there thirty-five years later, one of the first to tell the truth that shots came from behind that wooden fence. And they attacked her and ridiculed her. There should be a plaque over there commemorating her right on the spot where she is standing...
The Grassy Knoll should be called "Lee Bowers Memorial Park," the railroad bridge should be the Holland-Dode-Symmons Underpass - that's the monuments that should be named after the people of this state, people who had the courage to come forward with the truth, while the Dallas Morning News lied thirty-five years ago and continues to lie thirty-five years later.
This is the place where our leader was murdered. This is hollowed grown, and the people of this country know it. It is suppose to be the largest tourist attraction in Dallas. There's people here all the time, at the grassy knoll, nobody looks for the truth from the 6th floor of the Book Depository building, because the people of America know the truth, even though the Dallas Morning News is unwilling to share the information with us.
That day in Dallas, in this city, at this location, when the government of the United States executed its own president, when that happened, we as a nation, lost our code of honor, lost our sense of honor. And it can only be restored when the government of the United States - and it will not do it without us insisting, and marching and fighting and voting, and putting this matter on the agenda,...but when that day comes that the government of the United States tells us the truth and all the factual details about the assassination, including their role in the murder. When that day comes, honor will be restored to this nation. Thank you.
Dan Alcorn: Our next speaker is a member of the Board of Directors of COPA, a medical doctor from San Francisco who has researched this issue and has written about it in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Columbia Journalism Review, Dr. Gary Agular.
Dr. Gary Agular: It's hard to follow such a powerful speaker as Mark Lane and I certainly can't hope to match his eloquence, wit or command of this case, but what I can share with you is evidence...that autopsy photos are missing. This is something that you will not read in the Dallas Morning News, Time or Newsweek, but is something that is very clearly established, the ARRB releases are very clear on the point, the autopsy pathologists have described autopsy photographs that are missing. One of them defiantly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which was supposed to tell us the truth about the assassination...which not only did not report that, it wasn't released until the ARRB came along.
There is enormous evidence in the forensic, in the medical area alone that indicates there was more assassins, but what is most shameful of all is the government's willingness, even in subsequent investigations, to lie about that evidence. Thank God there was an Assassinations Records Review Board, thank God they did the work they did, because now we no longer have to rely on government appointed authorities to tell us that we can trust the government's original conclusions, because we know we can't.
We know they've destroyed evidence, not only in the medical-autopsy area, not only among photographs, we know that witnesses have been intimated, and it is a shame that you won't read about that. No credible journalist will touch the story. It is a story not unlike the story of the CIA and crack cocaine, which led to the downfall of Gary Webb, before two volumes of the CIA Inspector's Report that confirmed much more than what Gary Webb even alleged about the CIA's complicity in the cocaine importation. But you won't read about that in the Dallas Morning News. You barely get a small column about it in the New York Times after they devote many, many column inches defamed journalists who talk about the subject.
I think it is important that those of you who are here today continue to insist that your government is accountable to you and does not conduct its operations in secrecy, that it does not deny you the evidence that is collected in its investigations and that it be as accountable to us as it insists we be accountable to it.
I hope you will continue to work with us to force the government to be responsible and admit the full truth about the assassination of President Kennedy.
Dan Alcorn: Our next speaker is a member of the Board of Directors of COPA, a professor at Dartmouth, and the author of a number of books about the assassination, Dr. Phillip Melanson.
Dr. Phillip Melanson: Thank you. As we commemorate the 35th anniversary of this terrible political tragedy that so negatively affected our lives, our policies, our political system and our faith in our own government, we should remind ourselves that the tragedy of the President's assassination is compounded by a separate but related tragedy - the failure of our law enforcement institutions, the failure of our political institutions and the failure of the media to affectively discover the truth of who killed President Kennedy and why. And until that happens, and it is never too late to find the truth if the citizens demand it, and until that happens the original tragedy will be compounded like a bad political debt into the next millennium, and the faith in our political system will continue to erode.
I think also the failure to come to grips with who killed President Kennedy and why is related to the other assassinations in the 1960s, and that's why Martin Luther King's is begging the Justice Department to look for justice in that case, and we hear from Siran's lawyer in the case of Robert Kennedy.
If we had come to terms with what happened here at Dealey Plaza, discovered the truth and admitted it, the whole history of the 1960s would be different.
If the vast majority of the public believes this case is an unsolved conspiracy, who are the minority in officialdom to deny us the truth and to cling to the lone-assassin theory like it was an absolute religion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Dan Alcorn: Our next speaker is an acclaimed author and professor of history at the University of Maryland. His books include JFK and Vietnam and Oswald and the CIA, Dr. John Newman.
Dr. John Newman: I would like to say a few words about the media, and a couple of new developments for all of you gathered here. When I come here at this time of the year, I remember another place, a place connected to this place, and without the events that happened here, the other place would not exist, and that's the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., which is like no other war memorial in the world. I've been to other war memorials in Russia, China and Germany, and people frequent those memorials, they eat lunch there and talk and its a nice place to be. I don't how many of you have been to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C., but nobody hangs out It's a very, very somber place because there's still something going on there, something deep, something that's still in our psyche, and our culture and it connects directly to Dealey Plaza. And I think most people know that.
I'm not going to give a speech on the Vietnam War, but I think it is clear now that John F. Kennedy was on his way to pulling us out of Vietnam when he died, and the events that happened here catapulted us to that devastating debacle called the Vietnam War.
I'd like to echo what Mark Lane said about the media. I just heard that CNN this morning said that for the first time in all these years there were no events planned for Dealey Plaza on this day. So you are not here, this gathering does not exist. Furthermore, the evening before last, none other than Dan Rather, the major icon of the network television, made the announcement that the Review Board had conducted this very large investigation and looked at all these millions of pages of documents and had discovered that the lone-nut hypothesis was true, which was attributed to Judge Tunheim. Judge Tunheim was here in Dallas and refutes this story, and all of you who have followed this story know that the Review Board has taken no such position.
But it never ceases to amaze me how the media can twist and turn and obfuscate and block this mass movement to find the truth. Let me close by giving you a few examples of the information that is flowing out of these new files, and I think these are appropriate because of what happened here at Dealey Plaza. I am thinking particularly of a tape recorded conversation between President Johnson and Senator Russell, one of the Warren Commissioners. At great length they were able to save the situation and preserve the lone-nut hypothesis with that wonderful, sine qua non - CE399, the magic bullet that broke seven bones and came out pristine on a stretcher.
The newly released tape is very interesting because Sen. Russell calls the President to explain to him what this single-bullet theory is, and at the end of it he says distinctly, "I don't believe a word of it." And President Johnson said, "I don't either."
And I think that is appropriate thing to share with you the types of things that are coming out of the files. Then there is the galley proofs of the Warren Report where our esteemed President Ford moved the bullet hole up, and these are the types of things that are in the newly released documents, but the mainstream media is not there to put them on page one.
Occasionally they get noted, but it’s like ships passing in the night. I am heartened to see by the turnout here today, that with respect to the American people, this is not passing in the night and I hope as we stand here today and think about the events that happened here, we pass the torch to a younger generation, which we are doing, our movement and our desire for the truth in this case carries on. Thank you very much.
Dan Alcorn: We are approaching the time in our program which is a memorial to the events that happened here thirty-five years ago, so for that purpose I'd like to introduce to you the executive secretary of COPA, a man who has devoted himself for a number of years to working on the projects we have as an organization, but has also done his own independent research on the assassination. I think that those who have had the experience of working with John Judge know of his serious and sincere commitment to investigating the issues that are at stake here and to his contribution that he has made to the the history of the investigation of the assassination. He has really been the heart and soul of the work we have done through COPA. He has put in a tremendous volunteer effort and sacrificed and suffered a great deal for the efforts he has made, which have gone largely uncompensated. So let me introduce to you the executive secretary of COPA, John Judge.
John Judge: It is interesting to see such a large crowd. For the better part of the last 25 years, I have come out here every year, usually with only five or six people, often in worse weather than this, with researcher and newspaper editor Penn Jones, who some of you know as having done work on the death of the witnesses, who passed on this year.
From the inception of the national security and military-intelligence state in the late 1940s, the history of this country has been a commodity that has been owned by that state. The people who don't own their own history are a conquered people.
Much of the effort I put in has to do with the idea of taking our own history back, of owning it ourselves; since much is still locked up in government vaults and hidden from us and we are really the only ones who can restore it. 35 years ago, in my view, there was a coup d'etat here in Dealey Plaza, and the government has not recovered in any significant way, towards democracy, since that day. Kennedy began to represent for many people, hope and change and a response from the top level of government to the popular movements at the time for civil rights, for arms limitations, for an end to the Cold War, and Kennedy was responding to popular movements in a way that presidents after him rarely have. So what was assassinated here that day was not just a particular man or a particular president, but a sense of hope by the American people. And I think that the government has let us know over the years, fairly consistently, that they did kill the president, and they killed him from a very high level, and that if they can kill the president and get away with it that they can kill anyone of us that they would like to and that we should sit down and shut up and get out of the way.
But I'm hoping that there is enough decency left in people in America, and I see evidence of that all the time, that we can understand that there are more of us, and that we can think, and we can take back our own democracy, if we want it.
It is now 12:30, and 35 years ago President Kennedy was assassinated here, so lets have a moment of silence.
[Two minutes of silence]
Peter Dale Scott, a researcher who could not be with us here today, sent an e-mail in which he said a few interesting things. He said that we've come into a new era in that one of the major tasks ahead of us right now is to focus on getting the government documents that are still locked up on the Martin Luther King assassination. The other thing he noted was a government statute that makes it illegal for a citizen of this country to lie to the government, and he suggested that a similar statute be passed that would make it illegal for the government to lie to its people.
I hope you will take this topic seriously and continue to act to get the full release of the files and to get the truth, and you are welcome to join us at COPA in fulfilling the remainder of our agenda and what is to be done in the future. You are welcome to join us and take your democracy back.
Dan Alcorn: We have a few other speakers here, including former FBI agent William Turner, whose books have been translated into Russian, German, Japanese, French and Spanish. He is currently working on a new book entitled: "Rearview Mirror - Looking back at the FBI, CIA and Other Tails.
William Turner: Thank you Dan. It's been exactly 35 years ago and two days that I came here on assignment for a national magazine to do an article on the breakdown in security that resulted in the assassination being successful. I was assigned to it because of my background as a former FBI agent. I can tell you that when I arrived the mood was really somber, the floodlights were on, reporters from all over the world were converging, people had left floral wreaths along the curbstone where the shooting took place, and it was very erry. The headquarters of the Dallas Police Department was a feeding frenzy of reporters trying to find out what happened. I was on a very tight deadline, I could only contend with the security breakdown issue at the time, which was that Oswald had worked as an informant for the FBI and that was the reason they had not furnished his name to the Secret Service prior to the presidential visit.
One thing I remember was talking to a Dallas patrolman named Malcolm Eugene Barnett who had been posted in front of the School Book Depository for crowd control at the time of the assassination. He told me that a women came running from the grassy knoll who told him that shots were fired from here. That being the case, I became very critical of the Warren Commission and when it's report came out I read it and realized it was pretty much a fairy tale. I am proud to say that I was associated with District Attorney Jim Garrison in New Orleans who tried to reopen the investigation into the assassination. Jim was a great American and was on the trail of the assassins, as his book says, when he was destroyed by the media at the Clay Shaw trial. The Garrison investigation paved the way for what we know today, and I believe that we know to a good degree of journalistic certitude what happened.
First the motives were piling up, John Kennedy had supposedly with held air cover for the Bay of Pigs, motive number one. John Kennedy had failed to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, motive number two. John Kennedy had promised to withdraw from Vietnam, motive number three. Motive number four is that John Kennedy, at the time he was assassinated, was on a second track, which was to secretly carry on negotiations with Cuba to bring about a detente. These motives piled up to the point where it became necessary to assassinate him. And I think it is very obvious with the compilation of information that we have today that the whole mechanism of it came out of the allegiance between the CIA and the rabid Cuban exiles and the Mafia, who already had an assassination apparatus set up to kill Castro. They switched targets and hit Kennedy.
And I hope you will join us, in recognizing the significance of the events that happened here, and try to do something about it. Thank you.
Hal Verb: The saying on the wall at the CIA: "Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free," is wrong. When you know the truth, the truth makes you MAD!"