The Kennedy assassination’s sealed files


I add my voice to the hundreds of others demanding that the government finally release the thousands of documents yet in government, mostly CIA, vaults dealing with one of America’s most horrific tragedies, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963. A 50-year wait is long enough!

The controversy stems from the unpublished portion of the Warren Commission’s records, which were initially sealed for 75 years (one life time) or until 2039, reportedly to protect “innocent persons who could otherwise be damaged because of their relationship with participants in the case.” The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 was to make specific information available, but how does one know what to ask for unless one knows first that it exists? Extracting information from the government one piece at a time has been too slow. Holding back information amplified the perception that the government must have something to hide. 

Dissatisfaction with the Warren Commission’s findings came early and it suffered from a touch of illegitimacy, as the person who benefited most from “The White House Down” was the one who became president and created the investigating commission. Congress, not Lyndon B. Johnson, should have created the investigating organization. None the less, investigative panels followed over the years with mixed results: The Ramsey Clark Panel, Rockefeller Commission, Church Committee, and finally the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1976. The HSCA concluded that “President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” but it agreed on little else. Moreover, it is doubtful that they had all the documents pertaining thereto. The FBI and CIA tended to respond only to specific requests for information. They, like the Warren Commission, did their investigation mostly in secret. Unbelievably, they too sealed their evidence for 50 years under Congressional rules.             

Still, unlike other assassinations of the ’60s decade, controversy followed this one with marked consistency. In 1992, Congress passed legislation creating the Assassination Records Review Board to collect all the existing documentation relating to the Kennedy and other assassinations. To their credit, millions of pages of formerly secret records were declassified and everything else was to be released in 2019. They also conducted numerous interviews now available to researchers. Some were especially disturbing.

“Navy photo developer Sandra Kay Spencer told the ARRB in sworn testimony that the autopsy photos in the Archives were not those she processed on the weekend after the assassination. Autopsy photographer John Stringer similarly disavowed photos purported to be those he took of JFK’s brain during a supplementary exam. Other medical interviews contained similarly astounding allegations.” (ARRB Medical Testimony, Mary Ferrell Foundation)

Dr. Charles Crenshaw, a third-year resident at Parkland Hospital and an eyewitness to everything that happened to Kennedy in the trauma room, had never been interviewed by any governing agency. In his ABC “20/20” interview in 1992 (in my possession), he convincingly shares with Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs the following: The shots to the head and neck were entry wounds, thus came from the front, not from the back as the Warren Commission had concluded. The back of Kennedy’s head was blown out and the neck wound was the size of one’s little finger, just large enough for the trachea. Photographs of the autopsy from Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, after the body had been flown home, showed a neck wound three inches wide, presumably attempting to show an exit wound, which would support shots coming from behind and the lone gunman theory. This is important, as Crenshaw claims to be the last person to see Kennedy before removal from the room. Someone tampered with the wound. 

A few days later the young Dr. Crenshaw was in Parkland Hospital in Dallas again when Lee Harvey Oswald was brought in. While working on him he was tapped on the shoulder to answer a phone call from the White House. It was President Lyndon B. Johnson requesting a deathbed confession from Oswald. The show “20/20” obtained the White House schedule and concluded that it could have happened as Crenshaw claimed. None of this was in the Warren Commission’s report. Dr. Phillip E. Williams, also in the room, confirmed the Johnson call (The Doctor’s World, by Lawrence K. Altman, M.D, NY Times, May 26, 1992).

Why wait? By withholding or resisting the release of any documentation rightfully fuels conspiracy theorists. In this sense, the federal government is the origin of such theories. For most, it probably does not matter who conspired to kill Kennedy; whether the CIA, communists (Oswald claimed to be a Marxist), organized crime, President Johnson, who was destined to be dropped from the ticket in the next election, or even a lone gunman, as it happened so long ago. What we want is all the documentation made available and we want it now!

Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.


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