I just returned from one of the finest conferences I’ve ever attended. It was a 3-day conference on the John Kennedy assassination sponsored by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Not only were the speakers fantastic, the conference itself was first-class. 400 people attended. Wecht is a forensic pathologist best known for his criticisms of the findings of the Warren Commission and is deeply admired and respected within the assassination research community.
I highly recommend purchasing the videos of the talks at the conference, which probably will be ready in about 3-4 weeks. I am confident that they will be reasonably priced.
Here are just a few of the many highlights of the conference.
Oliver Stone, who directed the movie JFK, delivered two presentations. One presentation was part of a panel that examined why the mainstream media continues to hew to the Warren Report, despite its manifest lack of credibility. The other was a speech on Stone’s documentary “The Untold History of the United States,” with an emphasis on the Cold War period. Both presentations were fantastic. Stone is an awesome speaker, delivering his remarks with passion, commitment, knowledge, and, well, in a very friendly, down-to-earth manner. It was clear that Stone has steeped himself in history. It was also clear that the overall perspectives on the Kennedy assassination expressed in JFK are perspectives that Stone strongly holds today. I’d recommend purchasing the DVDs of the conference just for Stone’s presentations alone.
But the other talks were just as good. When Dr. Robert McClelland began his talk via live-stream on two big screens in the room, you could hear a pin drop. He told the audience that he was a 34-year-old physician at Parkland when Kennedy was brought in and that he was standing at the head of Kennedy’s gurney for 18 minutes. He carefully described the large hole in the back of Kennedy’s head, depicting an exit wound, from which he saw cerebellum brain tissue coming out. (The cerebellum is located in the lower back of the brain.) He stated that during the 1980s, he came to Washington and viewed the autopsy photographs, which of course show the back of Kennedy’s head to be intact. McClelland said he made it clear at that time that the autopsy photographs did not correctly depict the back of Kennedy’s head, a position that he continues to hold today. As I detailed in my multi-part article “The Kennedy Autopsy,” McClelland wasn’t the only one: There were lots of other credible people who saw the big exit wound in the back of Kennedy’s head, which, of course, would indicate that the shot had been fired from Kennedy’s front.
David Talbot, founder of Salon.com, and author of the fantastic book on the assassination, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, delivered one of the most interesting and gripping talks of the entire conference. It focused on CIA Director Allen Dulles, who Talbot called the chairman of the board of the Kennedy assassination. Talbot received a spontaneous standing ovation from the entire audience immediately upon the conclusion of his talk.
Talbot was followed by James diEugenio, the head of a group entitled Citizens for Truth About the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA) and the author of a new book entitled Reclaiming Parkland, which is a detailed critical analysis of Vincent Bugliosi’s book of the JFK assassination, Reclaiming History. DiEugenio’s talk showed how Kennedy’s philosophy favoring Third World independence and nationalism, which he was expressing when he was in the U.S. Senate, was a threat to the national-security establishment, which believed that any Third World nation that didn’t align with the United States in the Cold War had to be considered an enemy of the United States.
I was particularly interested in attorney Dan Hardway’s talk. He temporarily dropped out of law school to work for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the Kennedy assassination in the late 1970s. He and another law student were assigned to look into CIA records. The CIA insisted on their doing all their work at CIA headquarters. The CIA permitted them to request and look at files and to take notes, but prohibited them from removing anything, including their notes. For a while, the CIA was responding favorably to their requests, obviously humoring these two law students. But at some point, it was clear that the two law students knew what they were doing and where they were going. At that point, the CIA changed the system and summoned a retired CIA official named George Joannides out of retirement and put him in control of the matter. Hardway said that at that point, everything changed and they met with obstruction from that point on.
Another interesting speaker was Jefferson Morley, a former investigative reporter for the Washington Post and author of Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA. Morley has waged a 10-year or so battle against the CIA for the files and records relating to Joannides, which the CIA steadfastly continues to keep secret to this very day. In fact, Morley’s talk showed how the government, especially the CIA, continues to refuse to disclose some 1,100 records, consisting of an estimated 30,000-60,000 pages. What’s the justification? Oh, national security, of course.
Many years later, it would be learned that when he was an active CIA agent in the early 1960s, Joannides had played an intriguing role as the CIA’s contact for an anti-Castro group in New Orleans called the DRE, which had interesting contacts with Lee Harvey Oswald. Neither Joannides nor the CIA ever disclosed that relationship to the Warren Commission or to the House Select Committee, much to the later chagrin of Robert Blakey, the House Committee’s staff director, and federal Judge John Tunheim, who chaired the ARRB. See my article “The New York Times Shines a Light into the JFK-CIA-Joannides Scandal.”
By the way, Morley runs a great website on the JFK assassination entitled jfkfacts.org.
One of the interesting aspects to this conference is that it showed that as the years have passed and more and more records declassified, especially after the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, assassination researchers have coalesced in the same direction—that Kennedy was assassinated by the national-security state as a result of the fundamentally different direction that Kennedy was taking America, one that involved an end to the Cold War.
There were many more speakers, all of whom were great. Here’s the 3-day agenda. Again, I highly recommend your purchasing the DVDs of this conference when they come out.