How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why


Mr. McKnight is professor emeritus of history at Hood College in Frederick, MD and the author of the new book, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (University Press of Kansas). The following article was drawn from his book.

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“No, don’t dig up the past! Dwell on the past and you’ll eye.” But the proverb goes on to say, “Forget the past lose both eyes.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

After forty years the “who” and “why” of Dallas longs for an answer that cannot be given definitively and responsibly. A clear explanation was made impossible by the official conspiracy to see to it that there could be no other answer as soon as it was known that Lee Harvey Oswald, then the only suspect in the crime, had been assassinated and there would be no trial. Since there was no good-faith effort to investigate JFK’s murder, there are few leads from the official evidence that the private researcher can use as a basis for solving the crime.

Despite the official mythology that Oswald acting alone killed President Kennedy, government documents and records reveal that there were two conspiracies. The first was the one that took Kennedy’s life. The other was the bloodless one engaged in by officialdom—President Johnson, FBI director Hoover, the Justice Department, the Secret Service, the U.S. Navy, the CIA, and the members of the Warren Commission. All of them conspired to foist a counterfeit solution to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the American public. Although they all conspired, to one degree or another, to hide the truth that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy, it does not necessarily follow that any of them were guilty of the original crime— the planning and execution of JFK’s murder. At the same time, that possibility cannot be excluded.

With the crime now four decades in the past, no researcher can possibly truthfully answer the “who” and “why” of the JFK assassination. So far there has been no “smoking gun” uncovered among the four or five million pages of government documents released into the public domain and currently housed at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland; nor is there likely to be since those responsible for uncovering the facts of the assassination never investigated the crime. Unlike pulp-fiction mysteries, in real life there usually is no smoking gun. Although this book has not uncovered any such clue, it has unearthed out of the massive official record of the crime unanswered questions and impossibilities galore regarding ballistics, the nature of JFK’s wounds, the ignored testimony of key witnesses, the suppression and destruction of evidence, and a pattern of official lies and cover-up that continues to this day despite national legislation that calls for full disclosure and release of documents and records relating to the JFK assassination.

A thread of recognition runs through the record, exposing the hard truth that all those responsible for reporting on the crime knew at one point or another in the investigation that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. President Johnson was never in doubt that his sudden and accidental elevation to the presidency was the result of a conspiracy to take the life of John F. Kennedy. The weekend following the assassination, early intelligence from DCI McCone and Director Hoover persuaded Johnson that the tragedy in Dallas was the result of a “Red plot” hatched in Mexico City. This alone was reason enough for LBJ, Hoover, and Katzenbach to agree that a higher national purpose would be served by “settling the dust of Dallas” as quickly as possible. Like most Americans at the time, LBJ accepted at face value the existence of an international communist conspiracy. With Director Hoover’s assistance the White House moved quickly to discourage all official talk of a “Red plot,” with the attendant unthinkable consequences of missiles flying and forty million American lives hanging in the balance. Years later LBJ entertained the likelihood that the CIA had had something to do with Kennedy’s assassination.

As early as the weekend after the assassination the FBI suspected that there was a conspiracy when it learned of an Oswald imposter in Mexico City. By January, if not before, these suspicions had hardened into a dead certainty when FBI photoanalysts examined the Zapruder film and slides made from this historic film. The FBI interpreters concluded that the first shot at the presidential limousine had come before Zapruder frame 170, before a shot could have come from the “sniper’s nest” because the view would have been obstructed by a live oak tree in full foliage in front of the Texas School Book Depository. Based on these findings, the only tenable conclusion confronting the FBI was either that Oswald had not been the assassin or that he had had an accomplice. Anticipating the FBI, the CIA’s National Photographic Intelligence Center (NPIC) ran its own analysis of the Zapruder film over the weekend following the assassination. Like their FBI counterparts, the NPIC interpreters established that the first shot came before Oswald could have had a clear view of the presidential limo and that there were at least two shooters.

The Secret Service and FBI agents who were present at the Bethesda Hospital morgue and witnessed the Kennedy autopsy were never able to reconcile the official version of the shooting with the wounds they saw on the president’s body. The most stunning and puzzling disconnect derived from an X-ray of JFK’s head revealing something on the order of thirty to forty dustlike particles that showed up on the light screen like the “Milky Way” (Agent Roy Kellerman’s characterization). The immediate reaction from both FBI and Secret Service onlookers was that Kennedy’s massive lacerated head wound had been caused by a dum-dum bullet, that is, a hollownosed ammunition that explodes when it enters the body. Although not conclusive, this speculation about an exploding bullet was consistent with FBI firearms expert Robert Frazier’s diagrams of the distribution of bullet fragments, blood, brain matter, and tissue in the presidential limousine. Frazier’s report noted the scattering of blood and JFK’s brain matter in front of and behind the right visor and, more importantly, on the hood of the car. All of this indicated that the bullet or bullets that had struck the president in the head had exploded upon impact. The official story, of course, was that Oswald was using metal-jacketed, military-type ammunition that did not explode inside the human body. The wounds to JFK’s back and throat were consistent with nonexploding military-type ammunition. The Warren Commission never entertained the possibility that the president had been struck by some bullets that were explosive and others that were not. That would not have been consistent with the shooting scenario of a lone assassin.

The Warren Commission pretended to dispel all doubts about the ammunition used in the crime when it reported that a bullet allegedly found in Governor John Connally’s hospital stretcher matched the type of ammunition that could have been fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. It was the Commission’s contention that this 6.5-mm copper-jacketed bullet (Commission Exhibit [CE] 399) was the iron-clad ballistic evidence that tied Oswald and his rifle to the murder of President Kennedy. But this presumption of fact failed to clear the hurdle of witness testimony. Despite his best courtroomlike efforts, Commission counsel Arlen Specter, the Philadelphia assistant district attorney, was unable to get Parkland Memorial Hospital staff to agree that CE 399 had come from the governor’s carriage. Much to Specter and the Commission’s dismay, all the recorded witness testimony convincingly pointed to the greater likelihood that the missile in question had come from a stretcher that had nothing to do with either Kennedy or Connally. The Commission ignored this awkward turn of events because it subverted its prima facie case against Oswald as the lone assassin. The most credible explanation for the discovery of a virtually pristine 6.5-mm bullet in a stretcher that had no association with either Kennedy or Connally was that it had been planted by conspirators to put Oswald in the frame. The circumstances surrounding the so-called Connally stretcher bullet further strengthened the case for conspiracy in the assassination of America’s thirty-fifth president.

Putting the pieces of evidence together, a pattern emerges that points to a more realistic hypothetical explanation than the official version. Kennedy was removed from office by powerful and irrational forces who opposed his revisionist Cuba policy. By 1963 senior military and CIA officers had arrived at the conclusion that Castro’s Marxist government was not about to fall if a “higher authority” did not intend to overthrow it. For a Bill Harvey, a Desmond FitzGerald, a Lyman Lemnitzer, and other like-minded highly placed professionals in the military and intelligence communities, Kennedy’s 1962 no-invasion pledge was tantamount to giving Castro an intolerable degree of sanctuary. The CIA, its influence with the Kennedy White House already compromised because of the Bay of Pigs imbroglio, seethed at the prospect of becoming even more marginalized. If the White House would not commit to a military solution of the “Castro problem,” the morale and motivation of the antiregime Cubans would be irreparably damaged. CIA agents specializing in covert operations, the celebrated secret warriors of the Eisenhower years who carried out the vital and dirty work for freedom, braced themselves, expecting increasing difficulty in recruiting agents and sources, keeping already recruited agents, and continuing or intensifying intelligence-gathering and other clandestine operations against the Castro regime.5 For these CIA hard-liners, stalwarts of the Harvey-FitzGerald faction, bent on revenging the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs by getting rid of Castro, Kennedy may have crossed his Rubicon when he gave the green light to Attwood and a policy of accommodation with Cuba’s leader.

One certain way to scuttle a policy of rapprochement and move directly to retaliation was to show that Kennedy’s assassination was linked to the Castro government. Was this what Oswald’s handlers had in mind when they coached him in building a pro-Castro legend during the three months he spent in New Orleans just before he left for Mexico City? What we know (which isn’t very much) about Oswald’s alleged activities and associations in Mexico City and the CIA’s Special Investigations Group’s (SIG) and Special Affairs Staff’s (SAS) interest in Oswald just weeks before JFK’s assassination indicates that some very serious people at Langley were keenly interested in Oswald. It seems hardly credible that this twenty-four-year-old ex-marine warranted this high-level attention from a small and elite circle of CIA operational officers because he was the self-professed secretary of a nonexistent Fair Play for Cuba Committee chapter in New Orleans. Was Oswald an unwitting tool in what Castro characterized as a “gigantic provocation”?

There is evidence that as soon as Oswald was charged with Kennedy’s murder the CIA surreptitiously launched a disinformation campaign in the national press to convince the public that the assassin was linked to the Castro government. Was CIA director John McCone acting out of assassination hysteria or calculated design when he tried to push the Alvarado story on Commissioner Gerald Ford even after the FBI had proved the Nicaraguan agent’s account to be bogus? Were these developments isolated and independent of one another or interlocking elements in some plan to create an incriminating story about Oswald as part of a Havana-KGB conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy and provoke U.S. military action against Cuba?

If hard-line elements within the CIA conspired to force the new president’s hand or provide Johnson with the grounds to settle the “Castro problem” by an invasion of Cuba, they were quickly disappointed. Two weeks after the assassination the White House sent a clear signal to the CIA to abandon its agitation about a “Red plot” behind the tragedy of Dallas. On December 6, 1963, Katzenbach invited John Whitten and Birch O’Neal, Angleton’s trusted deputy and senior SIG officer, to the Justice Department to review a copy of the FBI’s report (Commission Document [CD] 1) on the Kennedy assassination. At that point CIA Langley knew that the “official truth” of Dallas would be that Oswald, acting alone, had killed the president. President Johnson used CD 1 to impress upon the CIA that he wanted all rumors and allegations about a “Red plot” squelched.

Hoover was quick to take the initiative in backstopping Johnson’s determination to shut down the Mexico City rumor mill. On November 27 the director ordered Laurence Keenan, a Spanish-speaking supervisor in the bureau’s Domestic Intelligence Division, to take the first available flight to Mexico City. Keenan was instructed to “coordinate the entire investigation” into the “Red plot” allegations and “pursue them vigorously until the desired results are obtained.” Keenan left that evening on the first flight available to Mexico City. He had no passport or visa, but FBI legat Clark Anderson met him at the airport and whisked him through Mexican Customs and Immigration to an awaiting embassy car. When Keenan arrived at the U.S. Embassy there were five or six officials waiting for him, including Ambassador Thomas Mann and Win Scott, the CIA’s station chief. According to Keenan, he relayed to the group that it was “Hoover’s conviction that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin and in view of Oswald’s untimely death no further investigation was deemed necessary.”

The FBI and CIA diverted their respective investigations away from probing into any connection between Oswald and his public pro-Castro activities during the three months before Kennedy’s assassination. The day following the assassination Hoover canceled orders to contact the FBI’s Cuban sources. The director narrowed the focus to Oswald and any alleged Cuban connections even further when he excluded all of the bureau’s Cuban experts and supervisors from the investigation. Abandoning any Cuban angle in the assassination, Hoover turned the investigation over to the bureau’s Soviet experts.

Senior CIA officers, in concert with the FBI, maneuvered to keep the public in the dark about any possible connection between the agency and Oswald’s movements in Mexico City or his staged pro-Castro activities in New Orleans. In late December Deputy Director of Plans Richard Helms removed John Whitten from the CIA’s investigation and replaced him with James Angleton, the chief of the agency’s counterintelligence staff. According to Whitten, Angleton had “direct ties” with Hoover.8 Angleton quickly concluded that Cuba was unimportant and focused his internal investigation on Oswald’s life in the Soviet Union. Whitten later told his House Select Committee interrogators that had he remained in charge of the investigation and been fully informed of the FBI’s and CIA’s preassassination files on Oswald, he would have concentrated his attention on the CIA’s JM/Wave station in Miami, Florida, to uncover what George Joannides, the station chief, and operatives from the SIG and SAS knew about Oswald. However, when Angleton took over the investigation the CIA had clear sailing in covering up any connection between it and the Kennedy assassination. Commissioner Allen Dulles, who had been CIA director before the Bay of Pigs fiasco prompted Kennedy to remove him, was Angleton’s ex parte pipeline into what took place inside the Commission’s executive sessions. For instance, when Hoover and McCone testified before the Commission they knew beforehand what line the questioning would take, allowing them to coordinate their responses. “Was Oswald ever an agent?” And “Does the CIA/FBI have any evidence showing that a conspiracy existed to assassinate President Kennedy?” When Hoover and McCone made their separate May 1964 appearances before the Commission they were on message with a “No” to both questions.

These were the kinds of generic questions that the government should have made every effort to answer in order to be true to its solemn obligation to uncover the reasons behind the Dealey Plaza conspiracy. Where there is no mystery, no shadow of doubt, is that planning for provocation to justify major U.S. military action against Cuba was a persistent theme in some government circles, most notably the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA, during the Kennedy presidency.

Another persistent theme during the Kennedy years was the deadly business of assassination of political leaders. “Executive Action” operations against foreign leaders posed no moral dilemma for some of the CIA’s senior officers if the removal of those people would advance U.S. aims. In May 1961, Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, was ambushed and killed by coup plotters with guns furnished by the CIA. Trujillo was on the CIA’s hit list, and the agency was associated with the plotters who assassinated the Dominican strongman.

The Trujillo assassination occurred on Kennedy’s watch, but at the time the president knew nothing of the CIA’s “Executive Action” operations and history. Kennedy learned about the program by happenstance a year after he entered the White House when FBI director Hoover brought it to his attention. When the Kennedys learned of these pre–Bay of Pigs CIA-mafia plots, the attorney general demanded an explanation. On May 7, 1962, Robert Kennedy met with Lawrence Houston, the CIA’s general counsel, and Col. Sheffield Edwards, director of the Office of Security, for a briefing on the CIA’s contacts with gangster elements. When the attorney general insisted that there be no more contact with mafia chieftains without first consulting him, Edwards assured Kennedy that all CIA-mafia plots had been terminated. But the CIA’s own 1967 inspector general’s report noted that Bobby Kennedy was never told that after the May meeting the “CIA had a continuing involvement with U.S. gangster elements.” Edwards had lied to the attorney general.

In February 1963 the CIA masterminded the overthrow of Iraq’s prime minister, General Abdul Karim Qassem. His pro-Soviet policies were deemed a threat to Middle East stability. Qassem and his supporters resisted the coup forces for two days before he surrendered unconditionally. The toppled general received a summary trial and faced a firing squad, all within one hour after he surrendered. His bullet-riddled body was shown on Iraqi television night after night to assure the populace that he was indeed dead. James Critchfield, the CIA’s division chief of the Middle East, was elated with the outcome, regarding it “as a great victory.” Years later Critchfield boasted, “We really had the Ts crossed on what was happening.”

Just weeks before Kennedy was assassinated, the first crucial death that same November was the assassination of South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem. DCI McCone and William Colby, the CIA’s Far Eastern Division chief, had made it clear within U.S. government circles that they were adamantly opposed to the removal of Diem, so the CIA could be assumed to be guiltless in this assassination. But as historian John Prados has convincingly established, “in the broader context of U.S. government encouragement,” CIA street agents in Saigon were in league with the military junta that toppled Diem, so the CIA’s hands were not altogether clean.

By the fall of 1963 President Kennedy was the greatest obstacle preventing hard-line government elements from getting rid of Castro. As late as November 18 the White House told William Attwood to go forward with his mission. It was agreed that Attwood would meet with the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, Carlos Lechuga, to set up an agenda for a future dialogue.

As Kennedy prepared for his Texas trip, differing plans within the government for handling the “Castro problem” were moving along separate tracks and heading pell-mell for the same crossing. Kennedy had committed to exploring a diplomatic solution. Desmond FitzGerald, the SAS’s executive officer, was employing CIA resources and contacts to assassinate the head of Cuba’s revolutionary regime. If “Operation AMLASH” went ahead without Kennedy’s knowledge, as the lack of evidence to the contrary indicates, then this was indeed dramatic proof that when it came to dealing with Castro some CIA bitter-enders were prepared to act as a law unto themselves and finish their grudge fight with Castro. AMLASH exposed the utter contempt that some CIA elements had for Kennedy as well as their fundamental lack of trust in the White House’s ability to advance the nation’s interests, as they perceived them, and assure the country’s security in an unruly and dangerous world.

Given all the previous CIA attempts to assassinate Castro, the odds against the success of a childish plot such as AMLASH were off the books. Moreover, the fact that the CIA did not have the White House’s endorsement for this risky attempt to hijack JFK’s Cuban policy meant that if the operation was blown, careers would have been ruined and Kennedy might had been furious enough to carry through his earlier post–Bay of Pigs threat to splinter the CIA and scatter it to the four winds. This situation raises the unavoidable suspicion that CIA hard-liners, conceivably in league with other disaffected institutional forces, planned to remove Castro by first getting rid of Kennedy. After forty years, Castro’s “gigantic provocation” still remains a credible template for any future investigation determined to probe the shadows surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Short of uncovering the proverbial “smoking gun,” no seamless explanation as to the “who” and “why” of Dallas is possible. Ideally, the time for uncovering answers to these questions was forty years ago, had the Warren Commission enjoyed the full cooperation of government agencies and a clear mandate from the Johnson White House to pursue the truth no matter where it led. Instead, “settling the dust” of Dallas as quickly as possible was the course the executive branch settled upon. For those involved in the investigation, this decision made at the highest level of government was tantamount to national policy. As a consequence, the Warren Commission went through the motions of an investigation that was little more than an improvised exercise in public relations. The government did not want to delve into the heart of darkness of the Kennedy assassination because it feared what it might uncover: the brutal truth that Kennedy was a victim of deep divisions and visceral distrust over how to solve the “Castro problem,” and that his assassination was carried out by powerful and irrational forces within his own government.

This article was published with the permission of the University Press of Kansas.

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More Comments:

Raul A Garcia - 6/15/2008

An imposing period, the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, the assassination...I left my country at five years of age and settled in Michigan in 1960. Talk about trauma! It seems the problems in my country I could not leave and remain central till today in my psyche as much as I am a citizen and love this country. The Bay of Pigs illustrates lack of experience, mediocrity by our "intelligence" agencies, and this is also borne out by the Iraq invasion. I do not think such grand conspiracies as articulated can be achieved given so many examples of ineptitude from one administration to another, whether Democrat or Republican. There is a clear danger though, I think, from relying on these conspiracies to tidy up the complex political history.

John E Neal - 12/7/2005

One thing, at least, is clear:

De-Classified Document Admits Oswald Was CIA


E. Martin Schotz - 12/4/2005

McNight writes: "Despite the official mythology that Oswald acting alone killed President Kennedy, government documents and records reveal that there were two conspiracies. The first was the one that took Kennedy’s life. The other was the bloodless one engaged in by officialdom—President Johnson, FBI director Hoover, the Justice Department, the Secret Service, the U.S. Navy, the CIA, and the members of the Warren Commission. All of them conspired to foist a counterfeit solution to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the American public. Although they all conspired, to one degree or another, to hide the truth that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy, it does not necessarily follow that any of them were guilty of the original crime— the planning and execution of JFK’s murder. At the same time, that possibility cannot be excluded."

This article takes the position that we cannot know what happened (the false mystery theory). While pointing the finger at the CIA, the author accuses an irrational element of the CIA for the crime (the spin-off, rogue elephant theory), limiting the motivations of this clique to JFK's rapproachment with Cuba. McNight's narrow focus on Cuba not including JFK's rapprochment with Khrushchev, now documented in their correspondence, and his turn against the Cold War in general, not to mention his orders to start withdrawing troops from Vietnam, obscures the fact that this was a cold war assassination carried out at the highest eschelons of power in the national security state. The author attempts to explain the Warren Commission and the government's cover-up as motivated by their confusion that the assassination was the work of the Cuba or the USSR and a desire to avoid World War III. Thus the implication is that they were trying to protect the American people, albeit for mistaken reasons.

This is all well worn nonsense. (See HISTORY WILL NOT ABSOLVE US: Orwellian Control, Public Denial and the Murder of President Kennedy). Oswald was an obvious CIA agent as Fidel Castro pointed out in his speech on radio and tv the day after the assassination. in which he analyzed press accounts of the assassination.

However, the key point for me is that here is an academic who avoids mention of the fact that for decades now the academic establishment's historical community has also been a part of the cover-up. Why? Does he want us to believe that they too were misled by the CIA, FBI, etc... What Professor McNight ought to do is to devote himself to explaining the academic community's complicity in the cover-up after the fact. However such an effort would hardly endear him to his academic colleagues nor would it be of use to the establishment, for it would lead into a discussion of the fundamental corruption of the entire political/media/academic establishment in this country.

The History News Network is doing no service to the American people in publishing an article such as this. It is serving itself and the establishment in an effort to retain a degree of legitimacy for that establishment which it does not have.

E. Martin Schotz

Peter R McGuire - 12/2/2005

Ninety percent of Americans do not believe the official version. If that is not a consensus , tell me what is. One would have to be absolutely blind and dumb to still consider the official story. It is just that , the official story. It has nothing to do with the truth.

william e vanvugt - 11/29/2005

I would urge all to read James Fetzer's recent "Murder in Dealey Plaza," which is consistent with McKnight, and exposes the deliberate lies found in Pozner's "Case Closed."

Frederick Thomas - 11/28/2005

This is a fine article from a scholarly book, but shares a common issue with all of the others - the motivation of the murderer, the "Mr. Big."

When it takes you two paragraphs to explain the motivation, you are probably on the wrong trail, and that is what I see here.

The SE Asia heroin connection is ridiculous-you could have gotten the heroin anyway-and the Cuba thing is so tortured and shopworn you just want to forget it for a while. It smells of a red herring.

One of the more interesting and reasonable reports concerns Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vannunu, who was involved with the development of nukes at Demona, until he went public in protest at this work and was thrown in jail for 18 years.

According to Vannunu, JFK was hit by the Mossad for driving Ben Gurion out of office, by publicizing Demona and what was going on there. (About 240 nukes were manufactured from stolen US enriched uranium.)

Ben Gurion is reported to have screamed at JKF over the telephone, "you are endangering the state of Israel!" and reportedly decided on the hit shortly after being forced from office in the ensuing scandal.


What is interesting is that the motive can be simply stated, is reasonable, and that LBJ changed US policy on Demona / Israel nukes after taking office.

This also fits with the way the pro Israeli press so strongly supported the Oswald theory.

Is international assassination so implausible? During WW II Chruchill had powerful opponents killed, surely Stalin did in the millions, and assassination has been a norm throughout history, from the Caesars to the papacy to the Medici to British royalty. Israel is the only country with a public policy of assassination.

Of course, what is weak about this hypothesis is that killing the leader of your greatest benefactor is a little wacky. The risk is just too great.

So, who were the members of this conspiracy the authors posit? The author is informative, but his final conclusion is unconvincing, in my view. I have yet to see an explanation which fits the facts fully.

Charles S Young - 11/28/2005

I'm not going to argue the details of the JFK assassination. I only want to make one point:

No one should assume there is a consensus against a lone gunman.

I found Gerald Posner's _Case Closed_ very informative. It argues that the JFK killing had a simple and obvious explanation: Oswald did it. Yes, there are endless volumes written about conspiracies. But don't leave out the simple explanations.

Don Roberdeau - 11/28/2005

Good Day....


Outstanding article. Will definately be securing the book.

Don Roberdeau

Walter McElligott - 11/28/2005

Thanx for painting a Van Gogh of the "Worthless" Commission.

John H. Lederer - 11/28/2005

It is difficult a know the credibility of a piece like this unless one is one of the many who have studied the assassination.

For the largely ignorant, we focus on the few details we do know. I know a little about firearms and ammunition. The statement:

"..had been caused by a dum-dum bullet, that is, a hollow nosed ammunition that explodes when it enters the body."

is pure horse hockey that illustrates a lack of knowledge of what a dum-dum is and how either a dum-dum or a hollow point bullet behaves in a wound.

A dum-dum is a jacketed bullet with the lead core exposed at its tip, causing the bullet to mushroom upon imapct and dissipate its energy into the target more quickly and more completely by the increased frontal area. 500,000 or so Wisconsin hunters were in the woods last week -- mostly using "dum-dums".

A hollow point has a cavity in the end which encourages the mushrooming effect, Hollow points can and do when they hit something solid, or when velocity is high enough, fragment, but the fragments are few in number and relatively large -- not the "dust" the article speaks of. Fragmentation of a hollow point, incidentally inicates a failure to achieve the desired effect.

"Frangible" bullets are special purpose bullets designed to break up. Some do turn to powder or dust on impact, but have relatively little penetration (often the design goal), generally are not very accurate, and are rarely used in high-velocity rifles like the Carcano because of the risk that they will break up before impact.

Having said that,for what it is worth, I did in the sixties own a Carcano that was the same model as that used in the assassination. Neither my brother nor I (perhaps average rifle shots) were able to get off aimed shots in the time posited. We could barely get the shots off, but only by somewhat frantically working the bolt action and not taking aimed shots. Even positing a higher level of skill on Oswald's part, I have always doubted the Warren Commisssion's conclusion because of our own experiments.

Lisa Pease - 11/27/2005

It's tragic that it's taken us over 40 years to find out the extent to which we were misled by the Warren Commission. I appreciate the History News Network putting this article up and promoting a more honest accounting than the government has yet to give us on this case.