Douglas Horne graduated from the Ohio State University in 1974 with a B.A. in History, and served as a junior officer in the U.S. Navy for 10 years, followed by 10 more years with the Navy as a Civil Servant in an anti-sub marine warfare program.
Horne worked on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) in Washington, DC for the final 3 years of the Review Board's 4-year lifespan, from August 1995 through September 1998. He was hired as a Senior Analyst on the Military Records Team, and was later promoted to the position of Chief Analyst for Military Records (i.e., the Head of the Military Records Team).
Horne was not only involved in the location and release of US military records on Cuba and Vietnam policy from 1961 through 1964, but he played an integral role in conducting both unsworn interviews and formal depositions of witnesses to, and participants in, JFK's autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and was also involved in joint efforts between the ARRB and Kodak to both digitally preserve the photographic images of the autopsy, and to conduct an authenticity study of the Zapruder Film in the National Archives.
After leaving the Assassination Records Review Board Horne worked for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before joining the State Department.
A couple of articles by Douglas Horne, Evidence of a Government Cover-Up and Interviews with Former NPIC Employees , appeared in Murder in Dealey Plaza (edited by James H. Fetzer). An interesting interview with Horne by Dick Russell was included in On the Trail of the JFK Assassins (2008).
Douglas Horne's book, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board was published in December, 2009.
I was formerly a staff employee of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The ARRB, established by the JFK Records Act of 1992, existed for 4 years, from September 1994 through September 1998. The ARRB was tasked with defining, locating, and ensuring the declassification (to the maximum extent possible under the JFK Act) of all Federal Records considered "reasonably related" to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (Agencies which had open records dumped their documents directly into the National Archives; Agencies which desired redactions in documents had to submit subject records to the ARRB for review and a "determination" as to their disposition.) The ARRB was not tasked by Congress to reinvestigate the assassination, or to reach conclusions, rather, only to ensure that Federal agencies conducted proper searches, and to facilitate placing records into the new JFK Collection at the National Archives.
I served as an analyst on the Military Records Team from early August 1995, through the end of September 1998, and served as the head of this small section - as "Chief Analyst for Military Records" - from April 1997 through shutdown of the ARRB in September of 1998.
The principal accomplishments of the Military Records Team was to secure the original USMC Service Record and Health Record of the accused assassin (LHO) for the JFK Collection, and to obtain significant quantities of records related to U.S. military and diplomatic policy on Vietnam and Cuba for the period 1961 through 1964.
Additionally, since President Kennedy's autopsy was a military autopsy, and those records are therefore military records, a great amount of staff energy was expended in trying to clarify the rather confusing and conflicted record of how the President died, and the nature of his wounds. Specifically, the ARRB staff conducted 10 depositions of persons who were either participants or witnesses at the autopsy, or who were involved in post mortem photography. (All of these depositon transcripts are now part of the JFK Collection.) In additon to the depositions, numerous unsworn staff interviews were conducted of other autopsy and medical photography witnesses.
I was the principal research assistant to the General Counsel in preparation for, and conduct of, the 10 autopsy-related depositions. I personally conducted about one half of the unsworn interviews of medical witnesses, and was present at the remainder. The records of these proceedings constitute "new evidence" in the JFK assassination and, subject to the usual caveats about eyewitness testimony, contain some rather startling information.
As an organization, the ARRB took no formal positions on the content of the medical depositions or medical unsworn interviews, and simply deposited them in the National Archives without comment. (The whole concept of the JFK Records Act was to create a central, unclassified archive for U.S. citizens to peruse at will so they could come to their own individual conclusions regarding the assassination.) However, as a staff member I wrote a handful of "memoranda for the record," or point papers, expressing my own personal opinions about what I considered important information gleaned during the depositions and the unsworn interviews.
I also served as the ARRB's liaison with the Kodak company in it's performance of "pro bono" work for the ARRB: digitization and preservation of the autopsy photographic images, and an authenticity study of the Zapruder film.
David Lifton's thesis in his 1981 book "Best Evidence" has been validated by the work of the ARRB staff. Our unsworn interviews and depositions of Dallas (Parkland Hospital) medical personnel and Bethesda autopsy participants confirm that the President's body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in a markedly different condition than it was in when seen at Parkland for life-saving treatment. My conclusion is that wounds were indeed altered and bullets were indeed removed prior to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital. This procedure altered the autopsy conclusions and presented a false picture of how the shooting took place. In most essential details, David Lifton "got it right" in his 1981 bestseller. (He has modified his views since his book was published on the "when" and "where," and I concur with his changes, which he will publish at a later date.)
Numerous persons the ARRB deposed or interviewed (FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill, mortician Tom Robinson, and others) have essentially disowned the autopsy photographs showing the back of JFK's head intact. O'Neill said the photos of the back of the head looked "doctored" (by which he meant that he thought the wound had been repaired - put back together - not that the photo looked altered), and Sibert said the back of the head looked "reconstructed." Tom Robinson of Gawler's funeral home said there was a large hole in the back of the head where it looks intact in the photos. Pathologist J. Thornton Boswell said that there was a lot of bone missing in the right rear of the head behind where the scalp looks intact -but did not explain how the scalp could be intact if the bone in the right rear of the skull was missing! (See the ARRB deposition transcripts of Frank O'Neill, James Sibert, and J. Thornton Boswell, as well as the unsworn interview report of the ARRB interview with Tom Robinson.)
Kodak's imagery experts could find no evidence that the photos of the back of the head in the autopsy collection were in any way inauthentic or forged. I agree with them that these photos are indeed authentic and are not photographic forgeries. I believe these images were taken during the reconstruction of the President's head after the autopsy, and that the images were taken as part of an intentional deception to make it appear as if the back of the head was intact, and that there was a small wound of entry high in the skull. Whether the scalp in the photograph is President Kennedy's own scalp simply rearranged and held in place by the doctor's hands in the photos, or someone else's scalp, I cannot say. This intentional deception explains why the autopsy photos of the back of the head do not match any of the Dallas descriptions of the head wound.
I believe the photographer at this reconstruction event was White House photographer Robert Knudsen - a Navy Chief Petty Officer assigned to the President's Naval Aide who was normally a social photographer. Why I am certain of this will be explained in my forthcoming book. Knudsen himself always believed he "photographed the autopsy," but this major error on his part can be explained by his lack of medical experience, and by the fact that he was the unwitting tool of a deception. Thus, we have an autopsy photo collection that is a "co-mingled" collection... made of images taken at different times on November 22-23, by different people. (See HSCA deposition transcript of Robert Knudsen deposition from 1978, and ARRB audiotape and interview report of joint interview with his wife, son and daughter.)
The photographs of "the President's brain" in the autopsy collection are really photographs of someone else's brain...a major deception in this case. These images, which appear to show damage consistent with a shot from above and behind, were disowned under oath to the ARRB by John Stringer, the photographer who took the official brain photos at JFK's supplementary autopsy. He disowned the images because of the angles at which they were shot, and because they were taken on the wrong film... film he did not use. (FBI agent O'Neill also disowned the brain photos in the autopsy collection, saying that there was too much tissue present, and that at autopsy over one half of the President's brain was missing.) These photos have been used for years by supporters of the Warren Commission's conclusions to support their shooting scenario, and to discount those who claim there were shots from the front or right front. (See my major 32-page ARRB memo - a research paper, really - on certain questions about the supplementary brain exam on JFK's brain.)
In summary, I believe that the CO-mingled, fraudulent autopsy photo collection showing intact images of the back of the head (fraudulent because they show a reconstruction, not because the photos have been altered), and the fact that the brain photos in the archives cannot be of JFK's brain, are collective proof of a major medical coverup in this murder. My own belief is that the coverup was not a benign one, but was one orchestrated by the conspirators themselves in a compartmented operation by (mostly) innocent people who were simply "following orders" because of what they were told was "national security."
I do believe that the head x-rays in the Archives are forged composite copy films, based upon the work of Dr. David Mantik. They are copy films showing altered images of JFK's actual skull, which hide the blowout in the back of the head (in the 2 lateral x-rays), and show a large, prominent 6.5 mm-diameter metal bullet fragment in the A-P x-ray (deigned to implicate Oswald).
In spite of having lead a rather reckless personal life of apparent sexual excess - something I do not care about personally one way or the other - JFK's popularity continues to grow. I think this is for substantial, not insubstantial, reasons.
It is now apparent, with the release of many classified documents, the writing of many memoirs, and the release of many secret office recordings, that JFK was a real skeptic about the use of military force in combat, and that although he believed in a very strong military readiness posture for the United States, and took his Cold War responsibilities extremely seriously, he repeatedly used military force, or rather was prepared to use it, only as a last resort, if all other options had been exhausted. For example:
(1) He refused to bail out the failed CIA Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba with U.S. troops, as the JCS desired him to do;
(2) He ultimately refused to either bomb or invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He made all preparations to do so, and made sure the USSR saw these preparations, and used this impending readiness as a powerful diplomatic tool to leverage Kruschev, but his daily strategy during this crisis was to continue to prepare for military action, while daily stalling the hawks who demanded the use of military force. In doing so he probably prevented a nuclear war, for we now know that the Russian rocket forces in Cuba had permission to use tactical nuclear weapons (launched by FROG missiles) against any US invasion forces, WITHOUT the advance permission of Moscow. As Robert McNamara said in 1992, if thousands of US sailors and Marines and Army troops had been "fried" invading Cuba, it would have demanded a retaliatory response by JFK and the nuclear war with the USSR would then have probably been unstoppable, escalating day-by-day into a true Armageddon. Ted Sorenson, who knew JFK's political instincts better than anyone else, has said that even though the Cuban invasion was "imminent" at the time Kruschev capitulated and agreed to remove the missiles, he was confident JFK would have found ways and means to stall the hawks in the USG and delay, or forestall, an invasion on a day-by-day basis, even though it was theoretically approved for Tuesday (I think), 2 days after Kruschev capitulated.
(3) JFK clearly was intent on withdrawing form Vietnam in 1965; he was disgusted with the entire military and political situation in Vietnam, was angry that we had become enmeshed and entrapped there with so many advisors, and was determined to right this error after his re-election.
(4) JFK took the Cold War seriously, but in the right way, and over the right issues. Berlin was important (because it did involve serious issues of not appeasing a superpower bully, whose appetite might then only be whetted for more); Vietnam (which was increasingly apparent to be a local civil war and not truly a vital superpower issue) was not. JFK wanted to defeat communism, but NOT on the battlefield...he wanted to defeat them in the Space Race, the ultimate superpower propaganda contest in which national greatness and the validity of two competing systems were going to be measured by technological prowess and economic strength, not by a destructive war. JFK wanted to promote the positive values of the West and the USA through volunteer service...through the Peace Corps.
(5) JFK wanted above all else to avoid an accidental, unintentional World War in the Nuclear Age. His own WW II experiences (in which he learned to be very skeptical about military leadership and so-called expertise), his study of Barbara Tuchman's book "The Guns of August" about WW I, and the fresh memory of the Korea stalemate in Asia all made him very cautious about the use of military force. He wanted to go to war only if we HAD TO...not because the hawks in the USG wanted to. And if we "had to" go to war, he wanted to ensure it was over a vital interest like Soviet aggression in Europe, not over a sideshow in Southeast Asia where US interest were not directly threatened.
(6) This man chose a life of public service, when he could, instead, have rolled up in a ball of self-pity and lived a selfish life of luxury all alone, feeling sorry for himself because of his serious illness (addison's disease) and his back pain (which was constant and unremitting). Yet all those who knew him well said he never uttered a word of self-pity, and had a genuine optimism about the future of man, about the positive role [and great responsibility] of the United States in the 20th century, and genuinely believed in the credo of public service that he so openly promoted.
(7) JFK became very courageous on civil rights in 1963, after a couple of years of dithering in 1961 and 1962. He could not duck the issue any longer, and strongly and firmly came down in favor of equal opportunity in education and proposed a very bold civil rights bill which LBJ got passed in his memory as part of the JFK legacy after his assassination.
(8) JFK's Peace Speech at the American University in June 1963 was a truly remarkable document, just as the Test Ban Treaty in September of 1963 was a noteworthy accomplishment. The Test Ban Treaty was his proudest achievement, and the Peace Speech (which rejected a military PAX AMERICANA and asked Americans to re-evaluate their altitudes about the Soviet Union) challenged both Americans and the Soviets to end the Cold War...a full generation before it finally happened.
In conclusion, regardless of whether people have advanced degrees or not, or think about politics frequently or infrequently, they have a pretty good sense of these things today in America; following the disaster of LBJ's War in Vietnam, and the current disillusionment over America's Iraq adventure, JFK's sober caution in foreign affairs looks pretty good to most Americans. (His one big screw-up was the Bay of Pigs; he openly acknowledged this, and he learned valuable lessons from it about being cautious about the so-called expertise of others, and about the limits of military power.) So does his intelligent, well-informed and reasoned (but not jingoistic) patriotism, his encouragement of public service, his insatiable curiosity, his support of the arts in America, and his optimism. So does his correct and courageous (if a bit belated) stand on civil rights in America.
America was on the right road in 1963 when he died. After his death, with the exception of the Apollo Moon Landing program and other space initiatives which he began, everything else went downhill fast in the 1960s. Americans know, and appreciate these facts. It is the mainstream historians who get it wrong when they say JFK was not a great President; the man in the street knows better. If he had lived to serve a full 8 years, I think the mainstream historians would treat him more kindly because they would have more concrete, completed accomplishments to write about. (Mainstream historians recognize concrete accomplishments rather than potential, and possibilities, and could-have-beens.) JFK was great because he had the country going in the right direction, avoided a nuclear war (and appeasement) through his caution and firm resolve during the missile crisis, promoted public service and the arts, and was responsible for the robust space program which may be the principal accomplishment for which the the post-WW II USA is remembered 500 years from now (as JFK himself predicted).
I served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board for just over three years, from August 1995 through September 1998. During that period of time the Review Board granted permission for the staff to take the depositions of 10 persons involved in the autopsy on President Kennedy: as a result, today any American citizen can go to the “Archives II” facility in College Park, Maryland and obtain copies of the transcripts of the sworn testimony of the 3 autopsy pathologists; both of the official Navy photographers; both Navy x-ray technicians; a Navy photographer’s mate who developed some of the post-mortem photography; and both of the FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy.
The Review Board’s charter was simply to locate and declassify assassination records, and to ensure they were placed in the new “JFK Records Collection” in the National Archives, where they would be freely available to the public. Although Congress did not want the ARRB to reinvestigate the assassination of President Kennedy, or to draw conclusions about the assassination, the staff did hope to make a contribution to future ‘clarification’ of the medical evidence in the assassination by conducting these neutral, non-adversarial, fact-finding depositions. All of our deposition transcripts, as well as our written reports of numerous interviews we conducted with medical witnesses, are now a part of that same collection of records open to the public. Because of the Review Board’s strictly neutral role in this process, all of these materials were placed in the JFK Collection without comment.
I have been studying these records for 10 years now. The reason I am here today is because contained within our deposition transcripts and interview reports is unequivocal evidence that there was a U.S. government cover-up of the medical evidence in the Kennedy assassination, yet most members of the public know nothing about this. Let me sound a cautionary note here: no single statement of any witness stands alone. Before it can be properly evaluated, the recollections of each witness must be compared to all of his own previous testimony, and to that of other witnesses—before the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and even with independent researchers—as well as all available documentary evidence.
Having said this, after considerable study of all of these records, I am firmly convinced that there is serious fraud in the medical evidence of the Kennedy assassination in three areas:
(1) The autopsy report in evidence today, Warren Commission Exhibit # 387, is the third version prepared of that report; it is not the sole version, as was claimed for years by those who wrote it and signed it.
(2) The brain photographs in the National Archives that are purported to be photographs of President Kennedy’s brain are not what they are represented to be; they are not pictures of his brain, but rather are photographs of someone else’s brain. Normally, in cases of death due to injury to the brain, the brain is examined one or two weeks following the autopsy on the body, and photographs are taken of the pattern of damage. Following President Kennedy’s autopsy, there were two subsequent brain examinations, not one: the first examination was of the President’s brain, and those photographs were never introduced into the official record; the second examination was of a fraudulent specimen, whose photographs were subsequently introduced into the official record. The pattern of damage displayed in these ‘official’ brain photographs has nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination in Dallas, and in fact was undoubtedly used to shore up the official conclusion that President Kennedy was killed by a shot from above and behind.
(3) There is something seriously wrong with the autopsy photographs of the body of President Kennedy. It definitely is President Kennedy in the photographs, but the images showing the damage to the President’s head do not show the pattern of damage observed by either the medical professionals at Parkland hospital in Dallas, or by numerous witnesses at the military autopsy at Bethesda Naval hospital. These disparities are real and are significant, but the reasons remain unclear. There are only three possible explanations for this, and I will discuss these possibilities today.
The Autopsy Report
The evidence that a draft autopsy report—as well as a first signed version—existed prior to the report in evidence today is both easy to understand, and undeniable.
The First Draft
On November 24, 1963 the chief pathologist at President Kennedy’s autopsy, Dr. James J. Humes, signed a typed statement he had prepared that read as follows:
“I, James J. Humes, certify that I have destroyed by burning certain preliminary draft notes relating to Naval Medical School Autopsy Report A63-272 and have officially transmitted all other papers related to this report to higher authority.” [Author’s emphasis]
On two occasions before the HSCA, in March of 1977 and in September of 1978, Dr. Humes maintained that he had destroyed notes. He repeated this claim in an interview published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in May of 1992. The reasons given in each case were that the notes were destroyed because they had on them the blood of the President, which Dr. Humes deemed unseemly.
The ARRB General Counsel, Jeremy Gunn, had reason to suspect that an early draft of the autopsy report had also been destroyed, based upon an analysis of inconsistencies between Dr. Humes’ previous testimony about when he wrote the draft report, and existing records documenting its transmission to higher authority. After extremely thorough and persistent questioning by the Review Board’s General Counsel in February of 1996, Dr. Humes admitted, under oath, that both notes from the autopsy, and a first draft of the autopsy report (which had been prepared well after the autopsy’s conclusion and had no blood on it), had been destroyed in his fireplace.
The First Signed Version
A simple study of the receipt trail for the transmission of the autopsy report reveals that the first signed report is missing as well.
On April 26, 1965 the Secret Service transferred the autopsy photographs and x-rays, and certain vital documents and biological materials to the custody of the Kennedy family at the request of Robert F. Kennedy. That receipt lists, among other things:
“Complete autopsy protocol of President Kennedy (orig, & 7 cc’s)—Original signed by Dr. Humes, pathologist.”
Evelyn Lincoln, secretary to the late President Kennedy, signed for receipt of all of the items the same day.
Incredibly, on October 2, 1967 the head of the Secret Service signed a letter transferring the original of CE 387, the autopsy report placed in evidence by the Warren Commission, to the National Archives; the National Archives signed a receipt for CE 387 the next day, October 3, 1967.
Warren Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in a declassified transcript of a January 27, 1964 Executive Session of the Commission, discusses details of the content of “the autopsy report” which are not consistent with the details of the report in evidence today, CE 387, thus confirming that the first signed version contained different conclusions.
The dilemma presented here can best be summarized by the following rhetorical question: How could the U.S. Secret Service transfer the original JFK autopsy protocol to the National Archives (or to anyone else, for that matter) on October 2, 1967 when they had previously given it to the Kennedy family on April 26, 1965? The answer, of course, is that there were two separate reports. The first smooth, or signed version, was given to the Kennedy family at the specific request of Robert Kennedy, and has disappeared. The second signed version is in the National Archives today.
The destruction of both the first draft and the first signed version of the autopsy report are clear evidence of the ongoing malleability of the autopsy report’s specific conclusions during the initial 2 weeks following the conclusion of the post mortem examination. Furthermore, it is clear that when Dr. Humes testified under oath to the Review Board that there was only one autopsy report, and that he only signed one autopsy report, he committed perjury.
[For those interested in obtaining copies of the relevant documents in the receipt trail, or in studying the likely content of the first two versions of the autopsy protocol, I will make copies of the relevant research memo available at the end of the press conference.]
Two Brain Examinations
My most remarkable finding while on the Review Board staff, and a totally unexpected one, was that instead of one supplemental brain examination being conducted following the conclusion of President Kennedy’s autopsy, as was expected, two different examinations were conducted, about a week apart from each other. A thorough timeline analysis of available documents, and of the testimony of autopsy witnesses taken by the ARRB, revealed that the remains of President Kennedy’s badly damaged brain were examined on Monday morning, November 25, 1963 prior to the state funeral, and that shortly thereafter the brain was turned over to RADM Burkley, Military Physician to the President; a second brain examination, of a fraudulent specimen, was conducted sometime between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963—and it is the photographs from this second examination that are in the National Archives today.
Pertinent Facts Regarding the Two Examinations are as follows:
First Brain Exam, Monday, November 25th, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, and Navy civilian photographer John Stringer.
Events: John Stringer testified to the ARRB that he used both Ektachrome E3 color positive transparency film, and B & W Portrait Pan negative film; both were 4 by 5 inch format films exposed using duplex film holders; he only shot superior views of the intact specimen—no inferior views; the pathologists sectioned the brain, as is normal for death by gunshot wound, with transverse or “coronal” incisions—sometimes called “bread loaf” incisions—in order to trace the track of the bullet or bullets; and after each section of tissue was cut from the brain, Stringer photographed that section on a light box to show the damage.
Second Brain Exam, Between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck, and an unknown Navy photographer.
Events: Per the testimony of all 3 pathologists, the brain was not sectioned, as should have been normal procedure for any gunshot wound to the head—that is, transverse or coronal sections were not made. The brain looked different than it did at the autopsy on November 22nd, and Dr. Finck wrote about this in a report to his military superior on February 1, 1965. The color slides of the brain specimen in the National Archives were exposed on “Ansco” film, not Ektachrome E3 film; and the B & W negatives are also on “Ansco” film, and originated in a film pack (or magazine), not duplex holders. The brain photos in the Archives show both superior and inferior views, contrary to what John Stringer remembers shooting, and there are no photographs of sections among the Archives brain photographs, which is inconsistent with Stringer’s sworn testimony about what he photographed.
Further indications that the brain photographs in the Archives are not President Kennedy’s brain are as follows:
Two ARRB medical witnesses, former FBI agent Frank O’Neill and Gawler’s funeral home mortician Tom Robinson, both recalled vividly that the major area of tissue missing from President Kennedy’s brain was in the rear of the brain. The brain photos in the Archives do not show any tissue missing in the rear of the brain, only in the top.
When former FBI agent Frank O’Neill viewed the Archives brain photographs during his deposition, he said that the photos he was viewing could not be President Kennedy’s brain because when he viewed the removed brain at the autopsy, the damage was so great that more than half of it was gone—missing. He described the brain photos in the Archives as depicting a ‘virtually intact’ brain.
Finally, the weight of the brain recorded in the supplemental autopsy report was 1500 grams, which exceeds the average weight of a normal, undamaged male brain. This is entirely inconsistent with a brain which was over half missing when observed at autopsy.
The conduct of a second brain examination on a fraudulent specimen, and the introduction of photographs of that specimen into the official record, was designed to do two things:
(1) eliminate evidence of a fatal shot from the front, which was evident on the brain removed at autopsy and examined on Monday, November 25th, 1963; and
(2) place into the record photographs of a brain with damage generally consistent with having been shot from above and behind.
Until I discovered that the photographs in the Archives could not be of President Kennedy’s brain, the brain photos had been used by 3 separate investigative bodies—the Clark Panel, the Rockefeller Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations—to support the Warren Commission’s findings that President Kennedy was shot from above and behind, and to discount the expert observations from Parkland hospital in Dallas that President Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head.
In my opinion, the brain photographs in the National Archives, along with Dr. Mantik’s Optical Densitometry analysis of the head x-rays, are two irrefutable examples of fraud in this case, and call into question the official conclusions of all prior investigations.
[For those who wish detailed verification of this hypothesis, the 32-page research paper on this subject that I completed in 1998 will be made available at the end of this press conference.]
The Head Wound in the Autopsy Photographs
I would like to conclude with some brief closing remarks about the autopsy photographs at the National Archives.
The images of the President’s head wound are inconsistent with both the Parkland hospital observations, and the Bethesda autopsy observations of almost every witness present in the morgue, as follows:
The blowout, or exit wound in the right rear of the head seen in Dallas is not present in the autopsy images, which show the back of the head to be intact except for a very small puncture interpreted by the HSCA as a wound of entry. Furthermore, the autopsy photographs of the head show extensive damage to the top of the head, and to the right side of the head, which was not seen in Dallas during the 40 minutes that the President was observed in trauma room one at Parkland hospital.
Bethesda Naval Hospital
Most witnesses from the autopsy also recall a very large wound at the back of the head, which, as stated above, is not shown in the autopsy photographs. The additional damage many autopsy witnesses recall at the top of the head, and on the right side, is present in the photographs—but not the damage they remember at the rear. One prominent witness, Dr. Ebersole (the radiologist at the autopsy), testified under oath to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel in 1978 that the large head wound in the autopsy photos is more lateral and more superior than he remembered, and said that he recalled the back of the head being missing at the autopsy.
Three Possible Explanations
There are 3 possible explanations for these inconsistencies:
(1) Photographic forgery—i.e., “special effects”—to make the rear of the head look intact when it was not;
(2) Major manipulation of loose, and previously reflected scalp from elsewhere on the head by the pathologists, so as to make it appear that the back of the head was intact when it was not; or
(3) Partial reconstruction of the head by the morticians, at the direction of the pathologists, followed by photography that created the false impression that there was no exit defect in the back of the head.
Many JFK researchers have long suspected photographic forgery, but extreme caution is warranted here because all analyses of the autopsy photographs done to date have used “bootleg” materials, and not the original materials in the Archives. The “bootleg” photographs do represent the actual views of the body in the Archives collection, but they are badly degraded, suffer from contrast buildup, and are photographic prints—whereas any true scientific study of these images for authenticity should use the color positive transparencies and B & W negatives in the Archives as subjects, not multi-generational prints of uncertain provenance.
I personally examined magnified and enhanced images of the Archives autopsy photographs at the Kodak lab in Rochester, New York in November of 1997, and I saw no obvious evidence of photographic forgery; but I am the first person to admit that I am not an expert in photographic special effects techniques circa 1963.
I am of the opinion that it is likely that the back of the head appears intact in the autopsy photographs either because the loose scalp was manipulated for photographic purposes, or because the photos in question were taken after a partial reconstruction by the morticians. I was steered toward this opinion by the ARRB testimony of the two FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy. Both men found the images of the intact back-of-the-head troubling, and inconsistent with the posterior head wound they vividly remembered. Frank O’Neill opined under oath that the images of the back-of-the-head appeared “doctored,” by which he meant that the head had been put back together by the doctors. James Sibert testified that the head looked “reconstructed” in these images - he actually used the word “reconstructed” at his deposition.
No final conclusions can yet be drawn about exactly why a large defect in the rear of the head is not shown in the autopsy photographs, when one was seen by so many witnesses. It is sufficient to say that something is terribly wrong here, and that it is an area that requires more study with the original materials. Thank you for your attention.
Len Osanic: Well, my first question to you of interest would be then tell me of your early impressions of the first week that you’re working on the ARRB. Did you have a feeling that this was really going to make a breakthrough? Or was there a lot there?
Doug Horne: Len, I wondered what have I gotten myself into? I was almost in a state of shock, initially. Here I was, I had come almost 5,000 miles, moved myself at my own expense, had to pay for my own plane ticket. The Review Board didn’t pay for people to relocate, and didn’t pay for their moves. It was a temporary agency. They didn’t have a lot of money. And found myself on a staff, first of all with a lot of people with advanced degrees, people had Masters degrees or law degrees, or both, a couple of people had Ph.D.’s and law degrees, and I found out that about 2/3rds of the staff were either Warren Commission supporters or leaned in that direction, and about 1/3rd of the staff thought there might have been a conspiracy or had an open mind, you know, genuinely had an open mind and were curious about the conflicts in the medical evidence. So, I didn’t find the same proportion of beliefs, I’m not sure if belief is the right word, but I didn’t find the same proportion of opinions on the staff that we find in the general public. And later I came to understand the reasons for that. I was told by my boss Jeremy Gunn on three different occasions that none of the five board members believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. So, you would have to ask yourself, you know, what motivated them? I think what motivated them was the desire to restore trust in American institutions, to restore trust to the government, that the government could conduct a citizen review, and search for and locate classified records on this subject and get them released to the maximum extent allowed by the JFK Act. And so that’s what was motivating them, to do a good deed, and release records, and as they said many times let the chips fall where they may, but they did not expect any records that were released to reveal that there was a conspiracy. They wanted to do their duty as they saw it. But, because these five people, nominated by, basically by the establishment, one by the A.B.A., two by historical societies, one by a society of archivists, and one by the White House staff, and these five people determine who is going to be hired. So, they hired David Marwell as Executive Director. And David Marwell was officially an agnostic about the assassination but in reality he thought the Warren Commission basically got it right. So, that’s how the dominoes were falling. So, in retrospect I was very lucky to get a job on this staff. I was completely upfront with these people when I was interviewed I said I thought there was probably a domestic conspiracy to kill the president but that I could not define it. I was just concerned with all the conflicts in the evidence and that I wanted to learn all I could about it and in the process get all the records released that we could get released. And I think ultimately the main reason I got hired was because Jeremy Gunn one of the six people that interviewed me he had a like interest. He and I were both fascinated by the conflicts within the medical evidence. So he, he number one he needed a guy on the military records team, he needed another person, and number two he had an agenda that he wanted to pursue, if permitted later, which was to try to clarify the record as to how President Kennedy was killed, and to study the autopsy. That’s how I got my job. And then as I was there I found out that how hard one worked and how motivated one was was much more important than what degree one has. There were people on that staff who had advanced degrees who didn’t do much work because they just weren’t that interested in the subject. Or viewed it as an exercise of resume building, and left, you know, after a year. And then there were other people who didn’t have as many degrees who probably got a lot more work done because they were much more interested in the subject. So, I learned a lot working there.
Len Osanic: So those were your early impressions?
Doug Horne: My early impressions were do I even belong here? I wondered if I, first I was concerned that maybe I was in a group of people that were much more qualified than I was but after a couple of months I realized that the degrees didn’t matter that much, what mattered was what kind of research did you want to do as an individual to become familiar with the evidence in your area, that your team was working on. It was very much a situation there where your influence upon what the staff did was going to be proportionate to how much initiative you showed, and how many things you proposed to your boss, and how much you wanted to do. So, it all worked out fine in the long run.
Len Osanic: Right, over a three year period, but still you know it reminds me of the anecdote that when you see a team play, a hockey team, or you know, baseball or something you just assume everybody is good buddies but you don’t assume that some guys don’t get along with other guys or they rub each other the wrong way, or that it’s not really a team.
Doug Horne: That’s right, Len, that’s right. There were times on the staff when the people’s opinions about the subject matter that we were working with did create friction(s). Sometimes I was involved in those friction. There were some people who really didn’t care much one way or the other, some staff members, many of the people hired because they had just gotten out of school, or were in-between jobs, and, I am just going to come out and say it, they could be low balled from the standpoint of salary, people who desperately needed a job, and wanted a job in the government and wanted to do honorable work, but they could be low balled. So, this agency that didn’t have much money was going after anybody it could get at the salaries it had predetermined and they were not generous. Unless you were a senior staff member the salaries were not generous, you could barely survive on them as a matter of fact, if you were at the mid-level or lower level of the staff. And in addition, David Marwell, the Executive Director, his, one of his goals was to avoid hiring “zealots,” and “people with an agenda,” and people that would try to “solve the assassination,” because maybe we should remind the audience here the JFK Records Act of 1992 which, of course, was born out of Oliver Stone’s movie and the controversy created by the film, the JFK Records Act did not empower the Review Board to reinvestigate the assassination or to reach conclusions in its final report. It only empowered the review board to search for assassination records in the government, to make sure that the agencies of the government were doing a thorough search, and then to make a determination about the proposed redactions, those areas of the record which the agencies did not want released. That was the job of the Review Board. [It] was to review the proposed redactions and then where we thought it was appropriate, which was most of the time to force the agencies to declassify them. (Doug Horne was about to say something when Len Osanic starts talking)
Len Osanic: Right. But, as one could imagine, this was like watered down by lawyers who are saying, well, we don’t want anybody to investigate this too deep but we just want to lift the lid enough to show people that everything was done, you know it really is lame, it’s a ridiculous excuse for saying that you’re allowed to look for documents but that you’re not allowed to make conclusions about them.
Doug Horne: It was a cop out by Congress.
Len Osanic: Yeah.
Doug Horne: Congress was painfully aware that its investigation in the late ‘70’s had pleased no one. And let’s remember they concluded that there was probably a conspiracy to kill the president, but couldn’t define it, and then shut down... Before we get into areas of fraud in the evidence, Congressman Louis Stokes, who was the second Chairman of the House Assassinations Committee in the late 70’s, Congressman Stokes met with the Review Board, with the five VIPs, before I was hired, he met them early in the game and told them, that he encouraged them to look into the medical evidence and see if they could make more sense out of it than the House Select Committee had. That was done in private, but it was a defacto admission that he was aware that the country and the research community was not satisfied necessarily with the work of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in trying to figure out where the wounds were and how many times the president was shot and from what directions. He was aware that there was still serious problems there. Because he encouraged them to try to clarify that area of evidence that is what gave Jeremy Gunn and I a foot in the door to do something besides just collect old records. So, what went on for three years and what, really what my book is about is the extra credit work, okay? My book is about the extra credit work, namely the fact that we took ten depositions of people associated with the autopsy and one group deposition of some of the treating physicians from Dallas, and numerous, numerous, numerous unsworn interviews of medical witnesses, morticians, and people involved with autopsy photography. So, that attempt to “clarify the record,” provided the basis for this book I’ve just written and I’m really grateful that we were permitted to do those things.
Len Osanic - Okay, so let’s get to maybe the first topic you have then, of the six areas you want to get to.
Doug Horne: Sure. I have decided that it’s an unalterable, irrefutable fact that there was a medical cover-up at the highest levels of [the government in] President Kennedy’s death, of the true facts in his death. I don’t think that is subject to dispute anymore. One can still argue about who killed the president or why and that will probably go on forever, but I don’t think it can be denied anymore that there was a medical coverup and the reason I feel so confident in that assertion is that there are six areas where I found fraud in the evidence. Before we launch into the first one I would say to the listeners imagine that the Kennedy assassination puzzle, it’s like a 500 piece picture puzzle that you buy at the store, and imagine that in 1963 someone took half of the pieces 250 of the pieces and just threw them away and then put in 250 pieces that really didn’t belong in that puzzle just to confuse everyone and to present a false picture. And unfortunately, what I think researchers did for decades was to try to assemble this puzzle where half the pieces were missing and half the pieces they had to deal with were of the wrong picture.
Len Osanic: Well, you make a good point and the only criticism of the research community is if they are following a red herring it is because someone has planted this evidence.
Doug Horne: Precisely.
Len Osanic: And it’s hard to fault somebody if they think they’ve discovered something and it doesn’t lead to where it should, because this is like misleading and phony evidence then, X-rays and photographs, and they are not the real thing.
Doug Horne: Right, So, yes, everyone probably fell into the trap initially, of believing for decades, of believing that well if the government had the evidence its sacrosanct, it’s sacred, and we should trust it, and it’s just a matter of connecting the dots properly. I don’t think that’s the case. And the reason there has been no consensus on the wounds is, or what happened to the president is because half the puzzle pieces are wrong. So, you know, an awful lot of old guard researchers have resisted this notion that there is fraud in the evidence now for about the last 10 or 15 years. And they have resisted it because in their minds to acknowledge this would make the crime unlovable and parenthetically it would also make some of their work irrelevant. So, we are dealing with turf here, people are defending turf, and things they have written in the past. And I would say to these people if you made errors it’s not your fault, it’s because someone else monkeyed with the evidence and let’s just move forward.
So, the first area I’d like to talk about as we move forward is are the autopsy photographs and X-rays; there were many autopsy photos that have been destroyed, and I can tell you that it’s a firm fact that two skull X-rays have been destroyed. Now, how do I know this? I know this because during the course of our ten depositions of autopsy witnesses at the Review Board we were asking them questions based on their previous testimony to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee, and in some cases about statements they have made to magazines, like for example the three pathologists were interviewed by the Journal of the AMA in 1992. So, we were asking people well informed and appropriate questions about the autopsy photos and X-rays, and to make a long story short as I analyze the testimony by all the witnesses to the autopsy taken over the years I now conclude that if all of their recollections are correct there are as many as, now this is a maximum, there were 18 different views of the body that were taken that are not in the collection at the archives. And that’s not the archives fault, that is because they were culled from the collection, removed, by the people controlling this cover-up before those photos were put in the archives. But, that’s a lot of pictures that are not there. What are some of those? Well, some of those are a close-up of the entry wound in the skull with the scalp reflected back so it should show a hole in the bone; a close-up of the entry wound in the skull from the outside, those are missing; a close-up of the entry wound in the skull from the inside with the brain removed, taken from the inside, missing; photographs of the bruise on top of the pleural dome, that’s the cavity in which your lung sits, missing; photographs of probes in the body which were seen as they were taken by Dr. Karnei, the second or third year resident that night, he was a Navy lieutenant and a resident, he worked in and out of the morgue all night long, who recalled probes in the body, metal probes in the body which is normal procedure in a death by gunshot a probe would go in where the entrance wound was and come out where the exit wound was in the body and the angle at which the probe is photographed is going to indicate the angle of a bullet tract, so he remember probes in the body and seeing strobe lights go off, that’s a flash, if you will, when those pictures were taken. And he was just astounded when we interviewed him and told him there are no photographs in the collection of probes in the body. He actually, his face turned beet red, he was just astounded that they were not in the collection because he saw them being taken.
There is another witness who developed autopsy photography, who developed pictures, Chief Robert Knudsen, Navy chief photographers mate, who told the House Committee in a deposition that he developed pictures and he knew darn well that at least one of them showed probes in the body because he remembers examining the negative after he developed it. So, that’s another type of photo that is missing.
And as far as the head X-rays, the skull X-rays go, Jerold Custer, one of the two X-ray technicians was very, very consistent over the years about one thing, he was inconsistent about many other things but he was very consistent about one thing, and that is that five skull X-rays were taken. Well, right now there are only three skull X-rays in the National Archives. And for those who may not aware we should explain I guess that the autopsy photographs and X-rays were held by the Secret Service in a safe in the old Executive Office Building that is across the street from the White House. They were held by them until April of 1965. And then Senator Robert Kennedy, the deceased president’s brother, Senator Kennedy wrote a letter to the military physician for President Johnson, Admiral, actually by this time Vice-Admiral Burkley, Burkley was the military physician for JFK and for Johnson, after JFK was killed he got promoted from Rear-Admiral to Vice-Admiral, so Burkley was still around controlling access to these things Senator Kennedy, RFK, wrote him a letter and said I want those materials transferred to Mrs. Lincoln at the Archives, that was, she was JFK’s secretary and had some office space over there, and was working for Bobby at this time. So, Admiral Burkley conducted an inventory of what was in the safe. He had Secret Service people sign the inventory. He signed it. So, all the materials that are in the archives today were transferred by Burkley from the Secret Service to Robert Kennedy. And then about a year and a half later from Robert Kennedy to the archives. So, that is the provenance of those items.
So, anyway, I think now that we’ve started to talk about X-rays it’s probably time to move onto area two of fraud in the evidence. So, the first area that we just discussed was destruction of evidence, I mean pictures that we know were taken that are not in the collection. Oh, and I would add one thing to that category, the most credible witness that we interviewed of the ten deponents was Sandra Spencer. Sandra Spencer was a Navy photographers mate who was not at the autopsy but who did develop post mortem photographs the weekend of the assassination. She developed color negatives. She is absolutely certain. She even remembered the name of the chemical process, you know, required to process color negatives. She developed color negatives that weekend and there are no color negatives in the collection, there are only color positive transparencies, slides if you will, 4 by 5 inch slides which are really called transparencies because they are not mounted they are just large pieces of film and black and white negatives. That is what is in the archives today, black and white negatives and color positive transparencies, they are all four inches by five inches, they are large format. She developed large format color negatives and not only that but when we deposed her and showed her the existing collection in the archives she shook her head and said these are not the pictures I developed. She said the president looks much worse here. He looks really beat up. There is a lot of blood in the photographs. And she said no, the photographs that she developed the president had been cleaned up. He looked much better, Apparently they were after a post mortem reconstruction, probably after the morticians were finished. So, those were other additional photographs which were made and are not in the collection. And probably the most significant one that she discussed is, and remember now she is talking about photos taken after the reconstruction by the morticians was completed, a photograph that still had a blow out in the back of the head, a big hole in the back of the head, about two inches wide, where the scalp could not be closed and where there was no bone. So, that recollection of hers, under oath, alone made her trip to Washington worthwhile because what it said was that the observations made by the Dallas treating physicians were surely correct, that there was an exit wound in the back of President Kennedy’s head because she remembered this photo, after reconstruction, after the autopsy showing the exact same thing.