The British JFK Producer Who Brought Shame on the History Channel


Mr. Holland is under contract with Alfred A. Knopf to write a narrative history of the Warren Commission.

The first allegation in print that Lyndon Johnson was not merely a bystander or witness in Dealey Plaza, but a perpetrator and the chief beneficiary of President Kennedy’s assassination, dates back to 1966.On January 31st of that year, a well-known New York dealer in autographs named Charles Hamilton put on sale a letter allegedly written by Jack Ruby.The sales catalog described the letter this way:

Astounding confession of international importance pinpointing LYNDON B. JOHNSON as the real murderer of JOHN F. KENNEDY and the tool of a Fascist conspiracy to liquidate the Jews!Neatly written by Ruby to a fellow prisoner on slips torn from a memo pad, this [1965] letter was smuggled out of the Dallas Jail and is unpublished in any form.

Despite questions about its provenance—and if not of uncertain provenance, then clearly evidence of Jack Ruby’s unsound mind—the letter sold for $950 to Penn Jones, the long-time editor of the Midlothian Mirror, a small newspaper in East Texas.Jones promptly published excerpts from the letter in his self-published May 1966 work Forgive My Grief, a compilation of his editorials on the assassination.[1]

Subsequently, the insinuation that Lyndon Johnson played a role in the assassination gained many adherents in the fall of 1966 because of two factors:the increasing unpopularity of the war in Vietnam, and new questions about the probity and integrity of the Warren Report.There was a rising perception among some elements in the country that “the whole direction of American [foreign] policy” had changed since November 1963, as evinced by Vietnam, and that President Johnson had ostensibly embraced “the road of war, terror, dictatorship and profiteering.”[2]The coincidental but simultaneous erosion of public confidence in the Warren Report initially fed this first phenomena, and the two quickly became mutually reinforcing.If the Warren Commission’s findings were untrustworthy, then what was one supposed to make of the ostensibly drastic changes in U.S. policy?

Initially, barbed references to Johnson’s role occurred in the cultural sphere; it was too unspeakable an insinuation to make elsewhere.In 1966, Barbara Garson, a veteran of the 1964 Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, fashioned “MacBird!”, a play loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” whichpointed to Johnson as being responsible for the assassination.Originally conceived as an “entertainment” for a protest rally, the play became an underground best-seller and was eventually produced as an off-Broadway play, despite criticisms that it was vulgar, cruel, and tasteless.[3]

In fairly short order books and articles presuming to be non-fiction started leveling the same claim.One of the first was by a German-American journalist named Joachim Joesten, who was also the first author to write a book about the assassination published in the United States.That 1964 volume, Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy, was printed by the publishing house of Marzani & Munsell, and claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the employ of the CIA when he killed President Kennedy.[4]In a similar vein, Joesten assertedin Johnson the Assassin that LBJ “usurped presidential power in November 1963 by backing the conspiracy to assassinate his predecessor.”[5]By the end of 1966, innuendo regarding Johnson had become so commonplace that it was acceptable for a respected, if left-wing, magazine to claim in all seriousness that “if the evidence against Johnson is too weak to stand on its own feet, it is still stronger than the framed case against Lee Oswald.”[6]Indeed, inside the Johnson White House in late 1966, one of the many concerns regarding William Manchester’s forthcoming book was that Manchester’s pejorative depiction of Johnson would inadvertently feed the burgeoning belief that the president had some role in the assassination of his predecessor.[7]

The high point of the allegation about Johnson’s involvement, in retrospect, occurred in November 1967, when New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison was the featured guest speaker at a Los Angeles convention of radio and television newsmen.Garrison famously asked the “Qui bono?” (Who benefits?) question, and then answered it:“The one man who has profited most from the assassination—your friendly president, Lyndon Johnson!”[8]It should always be kept in mind that Garrison represented a watershed in conspiracy thinking.Prior to his arrival on the scene in February 1967, not even the Warren Commission’s worst critics dared allege that the federal government itselfwas complicit in the assassination.The most serious charge had been that Washington was either incompetent, and/or too worried about where the trail of an alleged conspiracy might lead, to uncover the “real” killers.

As long as Garrison made headlines, Johnson was an integral (albeit subordinate) element in the DA’s grand theory of the assassination, which eventually took the form of a military-industrial/CIA plot against President Kennedy because he refused to fight a ground war in Southeast Asia and in general, end the cold war.In this scheme, Johnson usually played the role of an accessory after the fact.[9]When Garrison’s case against Clay Shaw collapsed in 1969, the DA’s grand conspiracy theory fell into disrepute too and allegations involving Johnson subsided.Thereafter (and until very recently) President Johnson’s involvement would only be alleged sporadically and he would seldom be labeled a primary instigator.His alleged complicity pales, for example, in comparison to the oft-heard allegations regarding CIA involvement.

The point of this historiography is to show that the allegation of Johnson’s complicity is an old one, almost dating back to the assassination itself from the perspective of 2004.Therefore, one might plausibly argue that a balanced documentary treatment of this “theory” is justified.

"The Men Who Killed Kennedy"

“The Men Who Killed Kennedy” (TMWKK) premiered on England’s CentralTelevision network as a two-part documentary in November 1988 to mark the 25th anniversary of the assassination.[10]Three additional episodes were filmed two years later and a sixth episode was added in 1995.[11]For 2003, the 40th anniversary, three new installments (“The Love Affair,” “The Smoking Guns,” and “The Guilty Men”)were added, bringing the total to nine.[12]Initially the series wasbroadcast in the United States on the Arts & Entertainment (A&E) cable channel beginning in September 1991.The venue on A&E was a self-described “news-driven documentary” program called “Investigative Reports,” and for an American audience the British narrator was replaced by the authoritative-sounding, veteran U.S. newsman Bill Curtis, executive producer and host of “Investigative Reports.”[13]The maiden A&E broadcast occurred three months before Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” premiered and became a box-office blockbuster.“We see ourselves as the . . . responsible solution to the dialogue,” Curtis said at the time.[14]

TMWKK appeared on A&E until 1993, the 30th anniversary of the assassination.After 1993 there seems to have been a lull of two years, after which TMWKK resurfaced beginning in 1996 on the History Channel.[15]Insofar as I am aware, TMWKK is one of the most frequently-televised and highest-rated franchises on the History Channel.Presumably it is one of the most lucrative.Interestingly, the History Channel has also underwritten at least one important documentary, “False Witness,” that is anti-conspiratorial in nature.[16]It exposes Jim Garrison’s 1967-1969 persecution of Clay Shaw as a terrible miscarriage of justice and attacks the heroic, “white-hat” depiction of Garrison in Oliver Stone’s film “JFK.”To my knowledge, “False Witness,” a 90-minute documentary, has not been rebroadcast more than once since its 2000 debut on the History Channel even though it addresses directly many of the same allegations raised in Nigel Turner’s TMWKK series.In and of itself, this gross imbalance in the amount of airtime devoted to contradictory documentaries is a telling indicator of the History Channel’s bias and priorities, and its near-total lack of regard for balance, objectivity, and accuracy in programs purporting to be documentaries.

The ninth TMWKK episode, which is the focus of concern recently, is actually the third time TMWKK has generated controversy.The original, 1988 broadcast ignited a furor in Britain years before the series made its debut in the United States.The first two episodes, as originally broadcast, named a three-man Corsican hit team from Marseilles, France as having been responsible for firing all the shots in Dealey Plaza, and named names.Although one of the named assassins, Lucien Sarti, was conveniently dead, the other two (Sauveur Pironti and Roger Bocognani) were both alive and both had airtight alibis.[17]“The only thing I know of Dallas is the soap opera I have watched on TV,” Pironti said.[18]His lawyers threatened a “multi-million pound” lawsuit, and Central Television was subjected to public criticism bordering on ridicule.On its own initiative, Central sent its own reporters to France after the program aired, and they promptly notified the company that the allegations were bogus and “total nonsense.”[19]

That was not quite the end of the matter.Independent producer-director Nigel Turner was censured by members of the British Parliament, and there was an attempt to revoke Central Television’s franchise based on the penalty for making inaccurate broadcasts in British law.Although that ultimate sanction was not applied, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the British regulatory agency, did compel Central Television to commission another program devoted entirely to exposing Turner’s research ethics.This “studio crucifixion” of Turner, as it was called, was duly broadcast on 16 November 1988, marking the first time British regulators had ever forced such action.[20]Turner’s response to the controversy was illuminating.“We expected this,” he said.“People have had 25 years to come up with alibis.”When asked why he did not bother to interview one of the alleged assassins (Pironti), Turner replied he didn’t because it was too dangerous.“We’re not talking about two-bit criminals.We’re talking about the world’s worst criminals.”[21]The American journalist who generated the allegations in the first place, however,was somewhat more chastened.[22]Episodes one and two of TMWKK were subsequently edited to remove the offending accusations.

The second time TMWKK came under criticism occurred in 1991-92, shortly after its broadcast debut in the United States on A&E.The simultaneous controversy over Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” however, tended to overshadow just how appalling the TMWKK series was.Writing in the Washington Post, former President Gerald Ford (a member ofWarren Commission) and lawyer David Belin (a counsel on the Warren Commission staff) accused TMWKK (then only five episodes long) of using the “big lie” technique perfected by Nazi Germany to perpetrate the fraud that top echelons of the U.S. government were involved in the assassination.“False charges of this kind are a desecration to the memory of President Kennedy, a desecration to the memory of Earl Warren and a fraudulent misrepresentation of the truth to the American public,” wrote Messrs. Ford and Belin.[23]The authors also singled out by name NBC and Capital Cities/ABC (both one-third owners of A&E at the time) for propagating such a hoax-filled series, even on a cable channel that made no pretense about being devoted to anything but entertainment.In their op-ed article, Ford and Belin also cited the responses they received from key executives at NBC, ABC, and A&E, all of whom sidestepped the issue of factual accuracy while defending their decision to air the program.[24]In his response to Ford and Belin, Nigel Turner said the Warren Commission was responsible for perpetrating a “big lie,” not film-makers like himself and Oliver Stone.“My documentary film series . . . was based on five years of effort, more than 300 face-to-face interviews and . . . began with few preconceived notions.”[25]

An exhaustive analysis of all TMWKK episodes would be mind-numbing.But a few generalizations can be made.One important point to keep in mind is that the episodes in the series are mutually exclusive.That is, one could not possibly accept episode one and/or three as being accurate, and simultaneously, episodes six, seven or eight.The “standards” for this series remain what they were for episodes one and two:they are risible, if they exist at all.A consistent pattern is that people who were nowhere to be found in 1963-64, when the investigation of the assassination was at its height, suddenly surface from deserved obscurity with the most astounding stories.[26]Frequently their reputations are doubtful at best and several are convicted felons.[27]Allegations of criminal conspiracy are casually made without even the pretense of supplying any proof or corroboration; it is simply enough to level the accusation (the “big lie” technique).Invariably, the most terrible charges involve people who are now dead (Nigel Turner apparently having learned a hard lesson in 1988).[28]

In fact, the only true standard I can readily discern is the desire to develop yet more lucrative episodes to add to an apparently unending and profitable saga.

"The Guilty Men"

The method the History Channel employs to sidestep the preposterous claims made in every TMWKK episode is to trot out their hired historian, Steve Gillon, Ph.D., and have him explain repeatedly that the program is simply another presentation of the many theories about the assassination of President Kennedy.In and of itself, this sounds plausible and perhaps even reasonable.A true documentary about Johnson’s ostensible involvement, given that the allegation has been kicking around for 38 years, is a defensible proposition.The real problem lies in how the charge is being carried out.If one applied the standards that are apparently acceptable on TMWKK, at some future point it will be fairly easy to “prove” that Nigel Turner, when he wasn’t writing, producing, and directing new TMWKK episodes, utilized his profits to finance the international trade in child pornography.

One need not go much further than the pejorative title of this episode to judge its fairness and balance.Gillon, both before and after every commercial break in the program, reminds viewers that “The Guilty Men” presents “yet another theory” about the assassination.But “The Guilty Men” doesn’t merely present the theory in a neutral manner; it offers up big lies uncritically, and therefore propagates them.

If an objective documentary were to be made about Johnson’s alleged involvement, say 60 minutes in duration, 30 minutes would have to be devoted to presenting Johnson’s side of the case.[29]It would take at least that long to rebut the potpourri of charges that have been leveled over the years (ranging from variations on Garrison’s “Qui bono” theory to the “oil depletion allowance” motive).Unfortunately from Johnson’s perspective, his alleged co-conspirators all have one thing in common:they are deceased.Indeed, it does not seem coincidental that the persons so casually slandered in “The Guilty Men” (such as Edward Clark, Don Thomas, Cliff Carter, Clint Murchison, Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, and John Connally) all happen to be dead.This has been the TMWKK modus operandi since the first two episodes had to be redone.

At the same time, some very well-informed individuals about Texas politics are still around, and their absence from the program is glaring.One thinks of Ronnie Dugger, for example, who wrote (as editor of the Texas Observer) about the machinations of some of the individuals mentioned during the course of the program, most notably Billie Sol Estes.Dugger is not known to be overly enamored of Lyndon Johnson and is on record as not even subscribing to the Warren Commission’s findings.[30]How is it that someone with his demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and first-hand exposure to Texas politics and business circa 1963—a journalist who knows the Texas players—is not to be found on the program?Might it have something to do with Dugger’s ability to debunk these allegations?

Instead of someone like Dugger, the episode presents the viewer with self-styled “assassination experts” like Edgar Tatro, Gregory Burnham, and Walt Brown, and alleged “witnesses” like Barr McClellan and Madeleine Brown whose concoctions cannot be corroborated by circumstantial evidence.A few examples will suffice to illustrate that not one person in this group is either an expert or reliable.

Edgar Tatro is a high school teacher from Quincy, Massachusetts.His main claim to fame is that he has been trying for 35 years to prove that Johnson was to blame for President Kennedy’s assassination.In the episode, Tatro is the vehicle for introducing allegations originally leveled by Billie Sol Estes that Lyndon Johnson and his associates were responsible for several murders, including that of President Kennedy.At one point Tatro notes that “there is every reason to believe [Estes] is [telling the truth].”In point of fact, there is every reason to believe Billie Sol Estes is incapable of telling the truth.He is a twice-convicted felon and compulsive swindler who spent more than 10 years in federal prison.In 1984, when Estes first alleged Johnson’s involvement in the assassination, it probably had everything to do with promoting Billie Sol, his just published autobiography, and nothing to do with reality.At that time Walter Jenkins, formerly Johnson’s closest aide, noted that Estes’s charge “was just so far fetched it’s sick.”[31]And as Estes himself admitted to the federal judge who sentenced him in 1979, “I have a problem.I live in a dream world.”[32]

At another juncture in the episode, Tatro claims that Governor John Connally “enticed” John F. Kennedy to come to Texas so that he could be murdered.“Johnson and his cronies suckered President Kennedy into Texas,” alleges Tatro, because only there were they presumably in control of everything, ranging from the motorcade route to the forensic evidence.This allegation has no basis in fact and is a fantasy manufactured by Tatro to buttress his preferred conspiracy theory.Connally did not “entice” the president to Texas; quite the opposite.For more than a year, the governor was under pressure from the White House to arrange a political/fund-raising tour on the president’s behalf, with an eye toward the 1964 general election.Connally wrote about how the November 1963 trip came about at great length in the 24 November 1967 issue of Life magazine.Although Tatro would undoubtedly claim Connally’s article was false, President Kennedy’s own special assistant, Kenneth O’Donnell, issued a statement in 1967 saying “in essence I agree with what the governor [wrote]. . . . There was nothing abnormal about what we did in Texas.”[33]President Kennedy’s advance man, Jerry Bruno, is also on record regarding the impulse for and purpose of the swing through Texas.“The trip to Texas was political from the word go,” noted Bruno in his 1971 memoir.[34]

Tatro’s closely related claim that being in Texas allowed Johnson “cronies” to control such things as the motorcade route is also an easily proven falsehood.At all times security along the motorcade was the responsibility of the U.S. Secret Service, while the route itself was chosen by President Kennedy’s advance men in close consultation with the Secret Service.Neither Johnson nor Connally played any role in selecting the precise route.

Gregory Burnham, if anything, is an even more obscure conspiracy theorist than Tatro, and Burnham’s credentials as an authority on any subject are equally suspect.According to a website apparently run by Burnham, he believes (among other things) that the famous film taken by Abraham Zapruder was altered; that when the president was struck in the throat in Dealey Plaza, it was most probably by a solid-rocket-fueled“fletchette” filled with a chemical agent that paralyzed him; that the president’s autopsy photos were altered and X-rays forged; and that the fatal shot was fired from a storm drain on Elm Street (an absurdity also propounded by Jim Garrison).[35]One might think this qualifies Gregory Burnham as Nigel Turner’s preferred authority on the forensic facts of the crime.Instead, Burnham is quoted as an authority on the Central Intelligence Agency and the history of President Kennedy’s relationship with CIA.It almost goes without saying that Burnham does not know anything about what he is talking about.

Burnham claims in the episode that the CIA’s original legal mandate was only to “coordinate intelligence . . . not to create the Bay of Pigs.”There is not a single, reputable historian of intelligence who would agree with him.One of the five tasks assigned to CIA under the National Security Act of 1947 was to “perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council will from time to time direct.”[36]This language was intentionally vague so as to provide the legal authority for covert actions when duly authorized by the president.And to the extent the CIA’s instrumental role in the cold war developed after 1947, that was primarily a function of the increasing requirements levied on the Agency by successive presidents, not because CIA was independent or beyond any president’s control.Burnham makes an equally unsupported and insupportable assertion when he claims that President Kennedy was intent on “abolishing [the] CIA.”Again, no reputable scholar of the period would agree—which is precisely why Nigel Turner resorts to using Burnham as his authority.Incidentally, Mr. Burnham seems to earn his living as a motorcycle escort officer in San Diego, California.

One could go on ad nauseum pointing out the half-truths, omissions, distortions, and outright lies contained in the latest TMWKK episode; the reliance on convicted felons for staggering accusations; the use of “experts” and “authorities” whose expertise is recognized by no one but themselves.One wag, upon seeing Oliver Stone’s film “JFK,” noted that the only fact the famed director seemed to get straight was that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.The same could be said of not just the last, but of all nine episodes in Nigel Turner’s series.

The problem is not the existence of Nigel Turner, however, nor of the experts and witnesses he and others like him utilize.If the controversy over the Lincoln assassination is any guide, there will always be people intent on attracting attention to themselves or trying to make a dollar off of the tragedy of John F. Kennedy’s murder.[37]That is the part of the price paid for free expression in this country.No, the genuine problem is the credibility and visibility attached to “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” because of its sponsorship by the History Channel and its corporate owners.

[1] Penn Jones, Forgive My Grief: A Critical Review of the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Midlothian, Texas: Midlothian Mirror, 1966), 64-66.

[2] Harold Feldman, “Johnson Murder Charge,” Minority of One, December 1966.Feldman’s words may be an extreme version, but they reflect accurately the perception.

[3] Leroy Aarons, “Satiric Stab at U.S. Leaders,” Washington Post, 27 November 1966.

[4] As a result of disclosures occurring after the end of the cold war, it was revealed in 1999 that the publishing house of Marzani & Munsell received subsidies totaling $672,000 (in current dollars) from the KGB in the early 1960s.Max Holland, “How Moscow Undermined the Warren Commission,” Washington Post, 22 November 2003.Whether the KGB underwrote Joesten’s subsequent publications is still an open question.

[5] Originally published in German, this work of Joesten’s did not appear in English until 1968.Joachim Joesten, The Dark Side of Lyndon Johnson (London: Peter Dawnay, 1968).But Joesten accused Johnson of complicity in three earlier works:Oswald: The Truth (London: Peter Dawnay, 1967); The Garrison Enquiry: Truth and Consequences (London: Peter Dawnay, 1967); and How Kennedy Was Killed (London: Peter Dawnay, 1968).

[6] Harold Feldman, “Johnson Murder Charge,” Minority of One, December 1966.

[7] Memo from John Roche to President Johnson, 23 November 1966, Original Warren Commission Material, Box 3, Special Files on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson Library; “Washington Wire,” Wall Street Journal, 25 November 1966.

[8] Milton Brener, The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1969), 220-221.

[9] David Belin, “Earl Warren’s Assassins,” New York Times, 7 March 1992.

[10] The first two episodes were “The Coup d’Etat” and “The Forces of Darkness.”

[11] “The Coverup,” “The Patsy,” and “The Witnesses” were the next three episodes; the sixth episode was entitled “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”

[12] The most recent episodes seem to have been produced expressly for the History Channel, in contrast to the previous six.

[13] Walter Goodman, “The Men Who Killed Kennedy,” New York Times, 27 September 1991.In the three most recent installments, apparently underwritten by the History Channel, a British narrator provides the voice-over.

[14] Brian Donlon, “Bil Kurtis, Still Hot on the JFK Mystery Trail,” USA Today, 27 February 1992.

[15] According to a search of the New York Times, TMWKK first appears on the History Channel in 1996.

[16] “False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison’s Investigation and Oliver Stone’s Film JFK,” 2000, Produced by Thomas Horton Associates, Inc. Ojai, California, for the History Channel.

[17] Pironti was in the French navy from October 1962 to April 1964, and Bocognani was in prison at the time.Meanwhile Sarti, who Turner alleged had fired the fatal shot, was partially blind and had had his driving license revoked in December 1962.In any event, his family proved he was undergoing serious medical treatment in France on the day of the assassination.The French government helped confirm the alibis, for it had a vested interest in the matter; it was trying to extradite the convicted felon who was the main source for the allegation.“Kennedy Killer Claim Amazes a Petty Crook,” The Times of London, 30 October 1988.

[18] “Kennedy Killer Claim Amazes a Petty Crook,” The Times of London, 30 October 1988.

[19] James Dalrymple, “Kennedy Murder Film Attacked as a ‘TV Lie,’” London Sunday Times, 24 November 1991.According to this article, one of the Central reporters told his superiors, “As an example of how to engineer responses, how to turn testimony by small degrees until it can be made to mean almost anything, [Turner’s program] is a marvel.”It also “makes one tremble for the profession of journalism.”

[20] Peter Sissons, “Unjustifiable Conduct,” The Guardian, 7 December 1998.

[21] “Kennedy Killer Claim Amazes a Petty Crook,” The Times of London, 30 October 1988.

[22] Dave Reitzes, “The Men Who Killed Kennedy,”; Turner’s allegations were not his original efforts, but drawn from the work of a self-styled “investigative journalist” named David Rivele.After learning about the alibis, Rivele commented that “I [still] believe that Sarti was involved, but apparently I was wrong on the other two.”

[23] Gerald R. Ford and David W. Belin, “Kennedy Assassination: How About the Truth?” Washington Post, 24 December 1991.

[24] As one executive wrote, the factor that mattered was “extreme [public] interest in the subject matter.”Ford and Belin, Washington Post, 24 December 1991.

[25] Nigel Turner, “Prying the Lid Off the ‘Big Lie,’” Washington Post, 11 January 1992.

[26] Episode seven, “The Love Affair,” is built almost entirely around the uncorroborated fantasies of a woman, Judyth Baker, who claims to have become Lee Harvey Oswald’s secret lover after having been enlisted by the CIA to develop a biological weapon designed to give Fidel Castro cancer.Baker conveniently asserts she always used pay telephones to communicate with Oswald.

[27] The Corsican hit team theory featured in the first two episodes rested entirely on the word of a convicted felon namedChristian David, who was facing extradition to France in 1985 to stand trial for murdering a policeman.David was already serving a 20-year sentence in a U.S. prison for heroin smuggling.

[28] One can safely predict, now that former CIA director Richard Helms is dead, that in some future TMWKK episode he will be identified as a co-conspirator.Undoubtedly Nigel Turner only refrained from making the allegation as of the ninth episode because to do so would have made him vulnerable to a lawsuit from Helms’s lawyers.

[29] Arguably, even 30 minutes in defense of the president would be inadequate, as that would barely touch upon his efforts via the Warren Commission to “evaluate all the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination.”Warren Report, 471.

[30] Ronnie Dugger, “Crossfire: A Call for a New Inquest,” Texas Observer, 27 December 1991.

[31] Wayne King, “Estes Links Johnson to Plot,” New York Times, 24 March 1984.

[32] UPI, “Billie Sol Estes Gets 10-Year Prison Term On Fraud Convictions,” Wall Street Journal, 7 August 1979.

[33] Edith Evans Asbury, “Connally Denies Kennedy Went To Texas to Help Out Johnson,” New York Times, 19 November 1967.

[34] Jerry Bruno and Jeff Greenfield, The Advance Man (New York: William Morrow, 1971), 84.

[36] U.S. Senate, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Book IV, “History of The Central Intelligence Agency, 94th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976), 15.

[37] As evidence that the controversy over the Lincoln assassination is alive and well, see James McPherson, “Fact or Fiction?” Perspectives (newsletter of the American Historical Association), 2004.

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James Feliciano - 3/16/2008

If the above link(s) no longer allows you to go there, then try this: and type in Max Holland in the [SEARCH] box on the official CIA website.

James Feliciano - 3/16/2008

THE POWER OF 'REAL' DISINFORMATION: "What's white, is black. What's black, is white."

Max Holland's link to CIA:

Jim R. Feliciano - 7/9/2004


How the (controlled) propaganda machinery within the U.S. media came to accept and endorse (fully) the false story of the Warren Commission's "lone-gunmen" hypothesis, then, and still to this day:

Jim R. Feliciano - 7/4/2004

re-post link:

Jim R. Feliciano - 7/4/2004

In order that the reader may understand of the very 'mind-set' to which Max Holland had engendered (and selfless ascribed to) against those who would stand to refute, question, and would attempt to contradict the "official" findings of the Warren Commission, read the following article (a copy which I have) that firs appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES, in November, 1977:

'Allusions to plot'
"CIA tries to stem JFK death theories"
[c. 1977; N. Y. Times News Service]

The CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY has often argued that it's worldwide PROPAGANDA EFFORTS are intended only to alter the climate of public opinion in other countries and that any "fallout" reaching the "eyes and ears" of Americans is both unavoidable and unintentional.

But a CIA document [CIA #1035; April 1, 1967] recently declassified under the Freedom of Information Act (at the time), provides a detailed account of at least one instance in which the agency mustered it's propaganda machinery to support an issue of far more concern to Americans, than to citizens of other countries.

This was the (agency support) of the WARREN COMMISSION (conclusion) that LEE HARVEY OSWALD ALONE WAS RESPONSIBLE for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In a CABLE sent to some of its overseas stations and bases on April 1, 1967, CIA headquarters began by recalling that, "from the day of President Kennedy's assassination on, there had been speculation about the responsibility of his murder."

Such speculation, the cable said, was "stemmed for a time" by the release of the Warren Commission's report in early 1964. But, the cable noted, "...various writers have now had time to scan the commission's public records and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there had been a new wave of books and articles (thru early 1967) criticizing the commission's findings."

"This trend of opinion is a 'MATTER OF CONCERN' to the U.S. government INCLUDING OUR ORGANIZATION", the CIA said, adding that the organization was "DIRECTLY INVOLVED" in the matter because, "among other facts, we CONTRIBUTED INFORMATION TO THE INVESTIGATION."

"CONSPIRACY THEORIES," the cable went on, "have frequently THROWN SUSPICION ON OUR ORGANIZATION, for example, BY FALSELY ALLEGING THAT LEE HARVEY OSWALD WORKED FOR US. THE AIM OF THIS DISPATCH is to provide material for COUNTERING AND DISCREDITING THE CLAIMS of the 'conspiracy theorists', so as to inhibit circulation of such claims in other countries."

The CIA was careful to caution its stations overseas, NOT TO INITIATE a discussion "of the assassination question" where such a discussion was "not already taking place." But where such discussions were under way, CIA officers abroad were DIRECTED TO DISCUSS THE PUBLICITY PROBLEM "WITH 'LIAISON and FRIENDLY ELITE CONTACTS', especially 'POLITICIANS AND EDITORS'" and to "EMPLOY PROPAGANDA ASSETS TO ANSWER AND REFUTE THE ATTACKS OF THE CRITICS."


"Point out also," the cable directed, that parts of the CONSPIRACY TALK appear to be generated BY COMMUNIST PROPAGANDISTS."

Two of the strongest critics of the Warren Commission (noted at the time were), EDWARD J. EPSTEIN and MARK LANE, (they) were singled out for (CIA)attacks... "although MARK LANE's book is much less convincing that EPSTEIN's and comes off badly when contested by knowledgeable (counter) critics," the cable said, in reference to LANE's book, "RUSH TO JUDGEMENT," (and) "it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details."

These critics and others, the CIA said, should be depicted as "WEDDED TO THEORIES ADOPTED BEFORE THE EVIDENCE WAS IN," (as) politically or financially "interested" in disproving the commission's conclusions, "hasty or inaccurate in their research, or INFATUATED WITH THEIR OWN THEORIES."

Such critics, the cable advised, 'have often been enticed by an intellectual form of pride, (that) they light on some theory and FALL IN LOVE WITH IT; they also SCOFF AT THE COMMISSION BECAUSE IT DID NOT ALWAYS answer every question with a flat decision (in) one way or another'.

"Actually, the makeup of the commission and it's staff was an excellant safeguard against over commitment to any one theory, or against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties."

In what was perhaps a burst of professional pride, CIA headquarters asked that it also be pointed out that "OSWALD WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN any sensible person's choce FOR CO-CONSPIRATOR--he was a 'loner,' mixed up of QUESTIONABLE RELIABILITY to any professional intelligence service."

[End of NY TIMES article]

Review more on these subject related links:

"...Point out also, that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be generated by communist propagandists."

Obviously, the reader will note the Holland 'posture' still articulates well with the above 1967 agency directive.

Based on this declassified CIA [1035; 4/1/67] memo, it is of no consequent surprise, that Max Holland, still, to this very day, slants aggressively of his insurmountable attacks towards those critics (or anyone for that matter) who has stood well in disputing the commission's own conclusions, and that of it's "official" 1964 (bogus) report.

Again, Max Holland, thruout the years, congratulations... it was you who served your "master" well:

Jim R. Feliciano - 6/5/2004

Here's one other letter by Peter Dale Scott, which was written to the editor of AMERICAN HISTORY magazine, in regards to an article and (of his derisive) comments written by Holland, against Scott's book on the JFK assassination, DEEP POLITICS.

Dear Editor,

In the June 1994 REVIEWS in AMERICAN HISTORY, you published an essay by Max Holland concerning my book, DEEP POLITICS, which he already attacked in the WILSONIAN QUARTERLY. His article opens with a reference to "fantastic conspiracies through innuendo, presumption, and pseudo-scholorship" (p. 191); it closes with his own innuendo about "palpable, cunningly manufactured falsehoods" (p. 209).

Surely it is gross intellectual cowardice to alledge or imply falsehoods without supporting this accusation. One might have thought that in a 19-page attack on my "opaque prose" and "fevered imagination" (p. 191), there would be at least a paragraph dealing with what I had actually written. I can actually find one dependent clause on the penultimate page, referring to "the fantasy that Kennedy was on the verge of pulling out of South Vietnam" (p. 208). Even this is not very close to what I actually wrote: "that in late 1963 Kennedy had authorized an initial withdrawal of... troops... to be substantially completed by the end of 1965" (DEEP POLITICS, p. 24). I went on to note how "time after time"... critics, from LESLIE GELB in the TIMES to ALEXANDER COCKBURN in the NATION, have replaced this verifiable issue of fact by an unverifiable one: whether or not JFK would have pulled the United States out of Vietnam" (p. 25-26). Holland, a long-time NATION editor, has, you will note, once again resorted to this simple trick of devious substitution.

Why do we find in an academic journal the turgid rant and wildly mixed metaphors ("unfathomable crossroads," p. 193) of the Nation? Holland demonstrates at the outset that he has done no basic research on Oswald, whom he believes to be the only important person in this case. He writes that... "prior to that Friday [November 22, 1963], no one called him Lee Harvey Oswald" (p. 193). In fact he had been called Lee Harvey Oswald in newspaper accounts of his 1959 defection to the USSR (and 1962 return) in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Herald Tribune, Washington Star, Fort Worth Press, etc., to name only some of those press accounts filed under "Lee Harvey Oswald" by the FBI, ONI, Texas Department of Public Safety, etc. (It is true that the CIA chose for it own reasons of state to label one of its three files on Oswald "LEE HENRY OSWALD," but Holland would be very foolish to adduce this as proof that the CIA Oswald was unimportant). The very first State [End page 564] Department cable from Moscow (1304 of 10/31/59) referred to "Lee Harvey Oswald," and this cable was also filed by other federal government agencies, as well as reproduced in the Warren Commission volumes (18 WH 105). Holland's theorizing about the ignored Oswald's supposed "desire to prove his central importance" (p. 199) is based on, and mislead by, perverse secondary sources -- notably GERALD POSNER's CASE CLOSED.

Holland also has it wrong when he says that "the FBI and CIA had lied by ommission (my italics) to the [Warren] Commission" (p. 204).
Officials of both agencies had lied in much more constructive ways, to the Commission as well as to each other. The CIA for example supplied a radically falsified version of "Lee Henry Oswald" 's 201 file, which RICHARD HELMS then certified to be accurate and complete. The FBI falsely denied a pre-assassination contact with Oswald, and compounded possible perjury about this (5 WH 13) with criminal destruction of relevant evidence. (I refer you on this last point to Posner's CASE CLOSED, pp. 214-16.)

In my view, these undisputed falsifications of the record after the assassination (which I did not even bother to mention in my book) are much less significant than the misleading games played with the Oswald files of the CIA and FBI (with innuendoes of a possible KGB plot) just before the assassination. I gave prominent place to these in my book, and Holland, predictably, ignores them. The newly released documents prove the pre-assassination deceptions to be far worse than I described them. Given these facts, it is surprising that an academic journal supposedly committed to inquiry, shortly after tens of thousands of important new documents have been deposited in the National Archives, would publish Holland's fatous excuse for not bothering to look at them (they "ultimately will only prove one thing: the Warren Commission got it right"-- p. 208).

There is only one quotation in Holland's essay about Oswald from an actual Oswald contact: a Dallas assistant district attorney (Bill Alexander), who complained that Oswald was so smug "I was going to beat the shit out of him" (p. 201). This quotation is much more revealing than it sounds. It is taken from GERALD POSNER's CASE CLOSED (p. 345), the latest rehash of the Warren Report for true believers. Alexander is not just a proven liar (as are so many of Posner's preferred sources) he is, only three pages later in Posner's book, a self-admitted liar!

Posner is a lawyer, and we are quite used to seeing lawyers turned to known liars for facts they cannot obtain elsewhere. But why is a self-admitted liar quoted as a source in a supposedly reputable academic journal?

In the first chapter of my book I noted how the Kennedy assassination, and related topics such as Kennedy's late 1963 authorization of troop withdrawal, [End Page 565] had become for many disreputable and indiscussable topics (pp. 12-16). Even so, I was dissapointed to see those who have published me attacked vigourously for doing so by a major academical journal. I continue to believe that it is the job of the academy to open minds, not to close them.

Peter Dale Scott
Professor of English


Max Holland, thruout the years, it is you who has served your "master" quite well:

Jim R. Feliciano - 5/23/2004


"There is something peculiarly sinister and insidious in even a charge of disloyalty. Such a charge all too frequently places a strain on the reputation of an individual which is indelible and lasting, regardless of the complete innocence later proved."


Here below, is an interesting letter sent to Max Holland, which appeared--by virtue of Dr. David W. Mantik's own written hand--is the following excerpt was excised from his journal [Addendum 2, My Response to Max Holland] as titled, "THE SILENT HISTORIANS":

In THE NATION (7 December 1998) Max Holland claimed that there was only an armful of books of lasting value on the assassination, which he listed. Given Holland's bias, it was hardly surprising that none of these books makes a serious case for conspiracy. Each book, in my view, either is seriously flawed (Holland even admits about this one), riddled with errors of fact, or grossly biased. All are now hopelessly out of date. Serious--even devasting--critiques of these books have appeared elsewhere; it is outside the scope of this essay to itemize these critiques. Surprisingly, though, during Holland's rather long discussion, he scarely mentions the medical evidence--the primary decisive evidence--so I thought it wise to remind him of this. My letter (David W. Mantik) appears below. It was never published and Holland never acknowledged it. A friendly note from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., suggested that a reply from Holland, even if informal, would have been appropriate.

To date only silence has reigned.

Such silence, particularly when preceded by embarrassing, but authentic, questions about this case, has become the signature trademark of the historians, and, journalists alike.

13 December 1998
Letters to the Editor, THE NATION
13 Irving Place
New York, New York 10003
Re: "The Docudrama That Is JFK", by Max Holland

Dear Editor:

Mr. Holland's (JFK) opus meanders intoxicatingly from piccolo to contra bassoon but only fleetingly sounds the leitmotiv of the assassination, For those who are not tonally deaf, that central theme is heard in the medical evidence.

From the new medical depositions taken by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), we now know that the only recognized autopsy photographer, John Stringer, did not take the autopsy photographs of the brain. A memorandum issued by the ARRB strongly suggests that two different brains were autopsied and that the brain photographs in the National Archives most likely are not those of JFK. My personal (D. Mantik), detailed studies of the autopsy skull X-rays, including an original use of optical densitometry, show virtually no brain tissue in a fist-sized area at the front of the skull, just where the photographs (paradoxically) show nearly intact brain. My measurements are not only consistent with the conclusion of the ARRB, but actually anticipated them by several years.

The shot (or shots) to the head pose even worse conundrums for Holland. If he agrees with the pathologists that JFK was struck low on the right rear of the skull, he then has no explanation for the obvious trail of metallic debris that lies more than 4 inches higher. Alternately, if he concludes that a bullet entered much higher, he must than believe that all three qualified pathologists were wrong by 4 inches, and that an absurdedly unique event occured in the history of ballistics--namely than an internal 6.5 mm cross section of a bullet was sliced out and then migrated 1 cm lower and stayed there. In addition, and after all this, he must also believe that the trail of metallic debris still lies well above his proposed entry site. No ballistic expert has ever testified to seeing so much nonsense from one bullet.

Even worse for Holland, just within the past year, Larry Sturdivan, the ballistic expert for the 1977-78 Congressional investigation, has insisted that this 6.5 mm cross section cannot represent a metallic fragment at all--thus crippling the central basis for the conclusions reached in prior official inquiries. My own research on the X-rays over the past five years (performed at the National Archives and now published in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE, edited by James Fetzer) agrees with Sturdivan that this object cannot be a real piece of metal. I have, in addition, shown how simple it was in that era deliberately to manufacture an altered X-ray with a 6.5 mm metallic image added to it (so that Oswald's rifle would be incriminated). Finally, at my request the ARRB specifically asked each of the autopsy pathologists under oath if they recalled seeing this flagrantly obvious, 6.5 mm object on the (original) X-rays (taken) during the autopsy. Just as I predicted, none of them could recall this artifact--one that my 7-year-old (nonradiologist) son instantly spotted on the extant anterior skull X-ray.

It is past time for Holland to transport his opus from the baroque era into the modern era. The new themes composed by the ARRB must now be played for a younger audience whose ear canals are not yet encrusted by decades of earwax. The baroque era is over.

Sincerely yours,
David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of Radiation Sciences, School of Medicine,
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Ph.D., Physics, University of Wisconsin, 1967
M.D., University of Michigan, 1976
Board Certified by the American College of Radiology, 1980

[End of Addendum 2 article; by David W. Mantik]

For further read on (the "real") Max Holland:
"Max Holland Saves The Warren Commission And The Nation"

Steve Brody - 4/11/2004

“JFK assassination industry” is an accurate term. I used to refer to it as a “cottage industry”. It is, in fact, an assembly line.

This industry has cranked out hundreds of different theories, most mutually exclusive. Since only one can be correct, it makes some sense to believe the one that is supported by the most evidence: Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, shot JFK.

Sheldon M. Stern - 4/10/2004

Max Holland deserves the support of all serious historians for perservering in the face of the endless nonsense coming from the assassination industry. His forthcoming history of the Warren Commission, of course, will not satisfy those who routinely invent "evidence" (as in the dreadful Nigel Turner "documentary".) Several years ago, for example, a friend told me to look at a claim on the Internet that aliens were involved in the events in Dallas (no, I'm not kidding!). After reading this hilarious drivel, I emailed the author and asked for her evidence. I later used her answer as the title for an article: "Evidence! Evidence! That's all you people talk about is evidence."

Peter R. Whitmey - 4/8/2004

Has Prof. Holland considered the possibility that powerful individuals in Texas, who feared LBJ would be dropped from the ticket because of the growing Bobby Baker scandal, plotted to kill JFK without informing Johnson?

George Pangborn - 4/8/2004

Max Holland owes Gregory Burnham an apology for disputing Burnham's assertion that the CIA was not intended to be used for Bay of Pigs type operations.

On unnumbered page 6 of Terry Reed's book "Compromised", he posted a 10 June 1964 letter written by Harry S. Truman to the editor of Look magazine.

The text of the letter reads:

"Dear Mr. Arthur:
Thank you for the copy of LOOK with the article on the Central Intelligence Agency. It is, I regret to say, not true to the facts in many respects.
The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the President. It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities.
Sincerely yours,
s/Harry Truman"

Mr. Holland it is you that doesn't know what he is talking about.

George Pangborn
Burnet, Texas

Kenneth T. Tellis - 4/6/2004

Every time I read about the JFK assassination, I read stories from all and sundry, but who is to say which story bears anything close to the reality of that happening on November 22, 1963? How can anyone be sure who the real culprits are? Perhaps there will never be closure to the assassination.