ARRB Updates

Note: This file consists primarily of press releases from the Assassination Records Review Board --- that is, stuff they have deemed okay for public consumption. There may be other stuff here from time to time. Also, the things at the top of this file are more recent than things beneath it. As you scroll down, the stuff you see may be obsolete.

Kennedy Autopsy Methods Questioned

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New testimony released Friday about the autopsy on John F. Kennedy says a second set of pictures was taken of Kennedy's wounds -- pictures never made public.

The existence of additional photographs -- believed taken by White House photographer Robert L. Knudsen during or after the autopsy at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. -- raised new questions about how the autopsy was conducted, a subject of intense debate for 35 years.

But the new evidence sheds no light on the whereabouts of the second set of pictures.

Kennedy was killed Nov. 22, 1963. The following year, a commission chaired by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded the killer was Lee Harvey Oswald and that he acted alone and was not part of a conspiracy. That conclusion has been challenged ever since.

"One of the many tragedies of the assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the records that do exist," said the Assassination Records Review Board, which made the new testimony public.

The board, created by Congress to collect all pertinent records concerning Kennedy's murder, said the doctors who conducted the autopsy may have had the best of intentions -- protecting the privacy of the Kennedy family. But "the legacy of such secrecy ultimately has caused distrust and suspicion," the board said.

One set of autopsy photographs, now at the National Archives, has been known to exist for years, and some of the pictures have been widely published. But the new testimony documents the existence of another set.

In 1997, the review board located Saundra K. Spencer, who worked at the Naval Photographic Center in 1963. She was shown the archives' autopsy photos and concluded they were not the pictures she had helped process.

Those she had worked with, she said, had "no blood or opening cavities." They were "quite reverent in how they handled it," she said.

She theorized that a second photographer took pictures of a cleaned-up corpse and speculated that was done at the request of the Kennedy family in case autopsy pictures had to be made public. "The only thing I can think of is that a second set of autopsy pictures was shot for public release, if necessary."

The film was brought in, she said, by an agent she believed was with the FBI. "When he gave us the material to process, he said that they had been shot at Bethesda and they were autopsy pictures."

She was told, she said: "Process them and try not to observe too much, don't peruse."

Knudsen's widow, Gloria, told the review board that her husband told her that photographing the dead president was "the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life."

He appeared before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which in the late 1970s reopened the official investigation into the killings of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and his widow said he later told her that four or five of the pictures the committee showed him did not represent what he saw or photographed that night and that one of them had been altered.

"His son Bob said that his father told him that 'hair had been drawn in' on one photo to conceal a missing portion of the top-back of President Kennedy's head," according to a review board memo about a meeting with Knudsen's family.

Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed, a 1993 book that argues that the Warren Commission's central conclusion -- that Oswald alone killed Kennedy -- is correct, [said] the new information was important and would "give grist to the conspiracy theorists for the next two generations."

"There's such controversy over the wounds on President Kennedy and the discussion over what the autopsy doctors have discussed and said and what the autopsy photos show that the existence of any additional photographs could be significant," he said.

Added David Lifton, author of Best Evidence, a 1981 book concerning medical evidence about the assassination, "It's of tremendous significance that there's another camera and its existence and its product have been concealed all these years,' Lifton said. "We've got a credible paper trail about another camera and film but no pictures."


Medical Depositions Available

On July 31, 1998, the Assassination Records Review Board will make available for purchase copies of information that it has collected relevant to the medical evidence on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (See Order Form below.) For pre-paid requests received prior to July 29, copies will be mailed or be available for pickup on July 31. Orders will continue to be accepted through August 14. The information to be made available includes deposition transcripts of 11 witnesses and one Master Set of Exhibits. All of the records will be available for examination in the Review Board's Reading Room on July 31.

The witnesses whose testimony is being made available, without redaction, are: Dr. J Thornton Boswell, Jerrol F. Custer, Dr. Pierre A. Finck, Robert Groden, Dr. James J. Humes, Frances X. O'Neill, Edward F. Reed, Jr., Floyd A. Riebe, James W. Sibert, Saundra K. Spencer, and John T. Stringer. With the exception of Mr. Groden, all of the witnesses were involved in the creation of records related to the autopsy of President Kennedy. Mr. Groden's testimony pertains to his knowledge about photographic records related to the assassination.

The Review Board followed standard legal procedures in taking the depositions. All depositions were taken under oath and the witnesses were subject to the penalty of perjury. With the exception of Mr. Groden, witnesses were shown the autopsy photographs of President Kennedy that have been identified by the National Archives as the camera-original color transparencies as well as black-and-white prints. The depositions were tape recorded by a court reporter who also transcribed the words as they were spoken. The transcript was subsequently sent to each witness who was, in accordance with standard procedures, afforded the opportunity of making corrections before signing the corrected version of the transcript. The corrections also were made subject to the penalty of perjury. A corrected transcript was thereupon prepared by the court reporter. Although the Review Board is now making available copies of the final transcripts, the Board's permanent files, which will be made available to the public upon the completion of its work, will include the original tape recordings, the pre-corrected transcripts, the hand-corrected transcripts, and the final corrected versions.

All but three of the depositions are available in "minuscript" format, which reduces four full-size pages to fit onto one page. The cost of reproduction of the minuscripts is substantially less per-page of transcript testimony.

The Review Board is also making available to the public a copy of its "Master Set of Medical Exhibits." The exhibits were referred to, by exhibit number, throughout the depositions and they provide a useful reference point for persons reading the transcripts. The majority of the exhibits are records that have long been in the public domain, although some new records are included as well. Some exhibit numbers refer to entire deposition transcripts. In such instances, only the title page of the exhibit is included. (The full transcripts either are already available in the National Archives or will be made available upon the conclusion of the Review Board's work.) Some exhibits contain redacted personal identifying information such as telephone numbers, addresses, and Social Security Numbers. No substantive information has been redacted from the exhibits.

Please mark each item you wish to purchase.

____ Boswell deposition                  11.00
____ Groden deposition                   12.00
____ Humes deposition                    13.00
____ Set of all minuscript depositions*  22.00
____ Master Set of Medical Exhibits      96.00

     Sub-total                           ____
     Shipping and handling**             ____
     Total amount enclosed               ____

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL ITEMS MUST BE PRE-PAID BY CHECK AND THAT NO COPIES
WILL BE SOLD AT THE ARRB OFFICES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN PRE-ORDERED AND
PRE-PAID.

Name      _____________________________________________________
Address   _____________________________________________________
          _____________________________________________________
          _____________________________________________________
Telephone ________________
Requests and pre-payments should be sent to:

Ms. Janice Spells
Assassination Records Review Board
600 E Street, N.W. Room 207
Washington, D.C. 20530

*Includes Jerrol F. Custer, Dr. Pierre A. Finck, Frances X. ONeill, Edward F. Reed, Jr., Floyd A. Riebe, James W. Sibert, Saundra K. Spencer, and John T. Stringer.

**For shipping and handling within the U.S., add $3.00 for each deposition item and $15.00 for the Master Set of Medical Exhibits. There is no shipping and handling charge for items that are picked up at the ARRB office.


From Joseph Backes:

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OPENS ADDITIONAL
JFK ASSASSINATION RECORDS

College Park, MD...On Wednesday, July 22, 1998, at 9 A.M. in the Textual Research Room, the National Archives and Records Administration, at College Park, will make available to the public additional materials relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in accordance with the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. These records will include approximately 50,000 pages of FBI materials; approximately 3,00 pages of materials relating to Operation Mongoose; 20,000 pages of materials from the John F. Kennedy Library; 20,000 pages from the collection of Richard Sprague; and 3,250 of miscellaneous records. The National Archives at College Park, is located at 8601 Adelphi Road. For a listing of the FBI main files, call (301) 713-6000.

Records of the FBI
a. Main files on numerous individuals and groups that were of interest to the House Select Committee on Assassinations [They made it singular in the actual newsrelease. I corrected it.] Included are files on Organized Crime figures, such as Joseph Civello, Sam Giancanna, and Anthony Provenzano; files on Cuban exile groups and individuals associated with those groups, such as J.U.R.R., M.I.R.R., Orest Pena, Manuel A. Ray Rivero, and Frank Sturgis; and files on other individuals, such as Lucien Conein and John M. Murret. A list of the Main files is attached to this release.

b. In addition to the Main Files, miscellaneous cross reference files, "see" reference files, and other related files are being released.

c. Sections of transcripts that were made during the FBI's BRILAB (Bribery of Organized Labor) investigation that are relevant to the the JFK assassination are also being released [IMPORTANT!!! CONTACT THE ARRB FOR THEIR NEWS ADVISORY ON THIS, WHICH WILL INCLUDE SELECTED TRANSCRIPTS.]

Records Relating to Operation Mongoose
Documents from the records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Intelligence Agency relating to Operation Mongoose are being made available.

Records from the John F. Kennedy Library
The documents released come from a variety of collections including Roger Hilsman and Tad Szulc (Cuba and US interviews). There are four boxes of schedules and diaries maintained by Evelyn Lincoln, the President's secretary and two boxes of oral histories, including Burke Marshall. Many of these documents have been available previously at the Kennedy Library. A box list will be available on Wednesday.

Records of Richard Sprague
Correspondence, and printed materials of Mr. Sprague, a long time researcher of the assassination, who served as a photographic consultant to New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison are being released. (The non-textual items will not be available until preservation processing has been completed.) They will then be in the custody of the Special Media Archives Services Division.

Other Records Released
a. The CIA's Office of Security file on Lee Harvey Oswald;

b. Certain documents from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library relating to Cuba, dated 1960-1961;

c. Desk diaries (desk calender) of President Gerald R. Ford for late 1963 and part of 1964.


Medical Records Soon

From Joseph Backes:

TO ALL,
THE ASSASSINATION RECORDS REVIEW BOARD WILL RELEASE THE MEDICAL DEPOSITIONS IMMINENTLY. A NEWS ADVISORY ON THIS SHOULD BE RELEASED THIS WEEK. THE DEPOPSITION SHOULD BE RELEASED BY THE END OF THIS MONTH. THE REVIEW BOARD IS GOING TO MAKE THEM AVAILABLE DIRECT FROM THEIR OFFICES. YOU CAN ORDER THEM. THE TOTAL BILL WILL BE $210. THIS WILL INCLUDE 12 DEPOSITIONS AND A BOX OF EXHIBITS. THE BOX OF EXHIBITS ARE NOT REAllY PHOTOGRAPHS OR X-RAYS, THEY ARE MOSTLY TEXTUAL. THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND X-RAYS USED ARE THE SAME MATERIALS THAT HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE TO RESEARCHERS AT THE ARCHIVES.

THE DEPOSITIONS ARE REALLY OF ONLY OF TEN PEOPLE. FRANCIS X. ONEIL AND JAMES SIBERT MADE SO MANY CORRECTIONS TO THE TRANSCRIPTS OF THEIR INDIVIDUAL DEPOSITIONS THAT THE REVIEW BOARD IS RELEASING THE ORIGINAL ONES WITH ALL CORRECTIONS IN PEN OR PENCIL AND THE FINISHED TRANSCRIPTS, THUS, 12 DEPOSITIONS.

THE REVIEW BOARD RELEASED THE BRILAB MATERIAL WHICH IS THE FBI ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE ABOUT CARLOS MARCELLO. THE REVIEW BOARD HAS A NEWS ADVISORY ON THIS AND HAS RELEASED SELECTED TRANSCRIPTS.

THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WILL RELEASE ADDITIONAL JFK MATERIAL WEDNESDAY. THESE RECORDS INCLUDE APPROXIMATELY 50,000 PAGES OF FBI MATERIALS, APPROXIMATELY 3,000 PAGES OF MATERIALS RELATING TO OPERATION MONGOOSE, 20,000 PAGES OF MATERIALS FROM THE JFK LIBRARY, 20,000 PAGES FROM THE COLLECTION OF RICHARD SPRAGUE, AND 3,250 PAGES OF MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES RELEASE CALL (301 ) 713-6000.

YOU CAN ALSO CALL ARCHIVES 2 AND THEY WILL FAX YOU THIS ADVISORY.

LASTLY AND SADLY, JEREMY GUNN HAS RESIGNED FROM THE REVIEW BOARD.

HE WAS ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS, AND WILL BE MISSED.

I WILL HAVE MORE SOON. - JOE


A Reply from the Board

The current issue of the journal JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly (Vol. 3 #4, July 1998) reproduces on its back cover a letter from the ARRB to Houston attorney Barr McClellan, one of the Texas researchers submitting data on Mac Wallace to the Board (see "JFK Breakthrough", this issue of Fair Play).

The Board's letter is dated June 2, 1998. In it, ARRB Senior Attorney Kim A. Herd asks Mr. McClellan to "submit the full report of your fingerprint examiner with respect to his or her comparison of the 'known' fingerprint of Mr. Wallace with the fingerprint found on the boxes located in the Texas School Book Depository building." Mr. Herd also requests the identity of the examiner and his qualifications, as well as Mr. Wallace's fingerprint card.

On June 18, Mr. McClellan replied that he had previously sent an affidavit from the fingerprint expert, Nathan Darby, but that additional supporting documents on the Wallace identification were being provided to the Board. "Mr. Darby remains ready at all times to confer with you or any representative about his identification," McClellan wrote Herd. "According to the FBI manual, an important part of the identification process is the ability of the print expert to explain and justify his match to another expert. Mr. Darby is prepared to do so at your convenience."

Mr. McClellan also recieved a letter from Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, acknowledging the receipt of notification of the Texas researchers' petition to the ARRB.


Return to Main Page


* * *