Edward Jay Epstein

Edward Jay Epstein

Edward Jay Epstein was born in 1935. An early critic of the Warren Commission, he published Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth in 1966. In the book Epstein accepts that Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty of killing President John F. Kennedy. However, he is not convinced by the "single-bullet" theory and believes that there is evidence to suggest that more than one gunman was involved in the assassination.

Iin 1977 George De Mohrenschildt approached Epstein complaining that he was short of money. Epstein offered him $4,000 for an interview. During their talks De Mohrenschildt admitted that in 1962 he had been contacted by J. Walton Moore, who was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency in Dallas. De Mohrenschildt was asked by Moore to find out about Oswald's time in the Soviet Union. In return he was given help with an oil deal he was negotiating with Papa Doc Duvalier, the Haitian dictator. In March 1963, De Mohrenschildt got the contract from the Haitian government. He had assumed that this was because of the help he had given to the CIA.

On 29th March, 1977, Epstein and De Mohrenschildt, broke for lunch and decided to meet again at 3 p.m. George De Mohrenschildt returned to his room where he found a card from Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator working for the Select House Committee on Assassinations. George De Mohrenschildt's body was found later that day. He had apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth.

In his book Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald (1978) Epstein argued that Oswald was a KGB agent. Much of the book is based on interviews with James Angleton and Yuri Nosenko. Other books by Epstein include Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America (1977), Cartel (1979), Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA (1989), The Assassination Chronicles (1996), The Secret History of Armand Hammer (1999), News from Nowhere: Television and the News (2000), The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood (2000) and The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies (2010).

Primary Sources

(1) Edward Jay Epstein, Esquire Magazine (December, 1966)

In January of 1964 the Warren Commission learned that Don B. Reynolds, insurance agent and close associate of Bobby Baker, had been heard to say the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination. When interviewed by the FBI, he denied this. But he did recount an incident during the swearing in of Kennedy in which Bobby Baker said words to the effect that the s.o.b. would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death.

(2) Edward Jay Epstein, The Warren Report: Part 2, CBS Television (28th June, 1967)

Well, there were three, I think, levels of complaint. The first one was the institutional, you might say: the general problem that a government has when it searches for truth. The problem of trying to have an autonomous investigation, free from political interference, and at the same time, it's dealing by its very nature with a political problem.

The second level might be called the organizational level of - was the Warren Commission organized in a way that prevented it from finding facts? And here my findings were that by using a part time staff and by the Commission's detaching themselves from the investigation - in other words, not actively partaking in the investigation - it raised some problems as to whether the Warren Commission's investigation went deep enough, so that if there was evidence of a conspiracy, they would have in fact found it.

The third level of my criticism concerned the evidence itself, and this concerned the problem of when the Warren Commission was come - confronted with a very complex problem. For example, the contradiction between the FBI summary report on the autopsy and the autopsy report they had in hand - how they solved this problem, whether they simply glossed over it or whether they called witnesses, and - and this - this, of course, brought up the questions of - of a second assassin.

(3) The Warren Report: Part 2, CBS Television (28th June, 1967)

Edward Jay Epstein: art of the job of the Warren Commission was restoring confidence in the American Government. And for this he had to pick seven very respectable men, men who would lend their name and lend probity to the report. And so that the problem was, in any seven men he picked of this sort, they would have very little time for the investigation.

They would also have two purposes. One purpose would be to find the truth, all the facts. The other purpose would be to allay rumors, to dispel conspiracy theories and material of that sort.

Arlen Specter: My view is that there is absolutely no foundation for that type of a charge. When the President selected the commissioners, he chose men of unblemished reputation and very high standing. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States would have no reason whatsoever to be expedient or to search for political truths. Nor would Alien W. Dulles, the former head of the CIA, nor would John McCloy, with his distinguished service in government, nor would the Congressional or Senatorial representatives.

(4) Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker (June 1967)

When the Warren Report was published, some ten months after the assassination, most Americans seemed to accept its conclusions, most editorialists praised it for its thoroughness and clarity, one or two reviewers criticized it as taking the form of a brief for the prosecution, and perhaps a dozen obscure citizens, unaware of each other’s existence, began to pore over it to prove that it was wrong. Eventually, of course, critical books were written on the Report by professional journalists such as Léo Sauvage, an American correspondent for Le Figaro, and Sylvan Fox, the former city editor of the World-Telegram & Sun; Mark Lane, the author of Rush to Judgment, and Harold Weisberg, the author of Whitewash and Whitewash II, became more or less professional critics; Edward Jay Epstein, whose book on the alleged bungling of the Warren Commission investigation, Inquest, is generally considered the single greatest contribution to making criticism of the Report respectable, entered the field through the orthodox routine of scholarship - in order to earn a Master’s degree by analyzing the workings of a governmental commission; and James Garrison, operating on the premise that the Warren Commission failed to fulfill its duties, launched an investigation of his own as district attorney of New Orleans. But in the two and a half years between the assassination and the publication of Epstein’s book, most of the hours spent examining the official version of the President’s murder were spent by people who had no professional reason for their interest and no plans to make a full-time career out of criticizing the Warren Report. They tend to refer to themselves (and the professionals) as “investigators” or “researchers” or, most often, “critics.” They are also known as “assassination buffs.”

(5) Edward Jay Epstein, Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald (1978)

The possibility that Oswald was encouraged or assisted in the act by some unknown party can certainly not be excluded. But there is one piece of evidence which strongly argues against the possibility that Oswald was part of an intelligent and purposeful conspiracy - the note which Oswald purportedly wrote to the FBI a week or so before Kennedy arrived in Dallas.

In this note, Oswald threatened to blow up the local FBI headquarters in Dallas unless FBI agents stopped harassing his wife. The note itself was never divulged to the Warren Commission. Instead, after Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby, the local FBI agent, undoubtedly on orders from his superiors destroyed the note. Its existence was only admitted by FBI officials in 1975 when FBI employees in Dallas, who had seen the note, revealed its contents. They testified, moreover, that Oswald had delivered the note to the FBI office.

If there was a conspiracy, it is difficult to understand why it should risk revealing itself to the FBI by having Oswald, their; main actor, walk into the FBI office with a threatening note. He might have been arrested on the spot, or at the very least, the FBI could have been expected to warn the President security force that Oswald, who was employed on the President's route, had made a violent threat to federal officials. Even if the conspirators only meant to frame Oswald, the delivery of the note would jeopardize that plan since it risked having Oswald arrested prior to the President's arrival. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that, if the note is authentic, Oswald was not part of a conspiracy.

(6) Edward Jay Epstein, diary entry (29th March, 1977)

David Bludworth, The State's Attorney, was a folksy, charming and savvy interrogator. He began by telling me that De Mohrenschildt had put a shotgun in his mouth and killed himself at 3:45 p.m. There were no witnesses - and no one home at the time of the shooting. The precise time of his death was established by a tape-recorder, left running that afternoon to record the soap operas for the absent Mrs. Tilton, and which recorded a single set of footfalls in the room and the blast of the shotgun, which was found on the Persian carpet next to him. No suicide note or other clue was found. He said I was probably the last person to talk to him. Then, he asked whether I had in my possession De Mohrenschildt's black address book. I replied "No." He politely rephrased the question, and asked me again - about a half-dozen times, whether I had the black book.

(7) Gaeton Fonzi, interviewed on 8th October, 1994.

Q: Do you think that de Mohrenschildt committed suicide because you were going to see him? What was your reaction upon hearing of his suicide?

A: Yeah. Again, this is my opinion. At the time de Mohrenschildt committed suicide, there were a number of things taking place, and a number of specific factors that put a lot of pressure on him. The House Committee was getting started again. He was being asked, I believe, to begin another role in his relationship to the assassination and his testimony before the Warren Commission. He was taken, just before he committed suicide, he was taken to Belgium by a foreign journalist. He was, I believe he felt he was, being set up. He was supposed to have a meeting with a KGB official, I believe, but he ran away. He came back to Florida. He believed he was being set up to make it appear that there was a link between him and the KGB. And then obviously a link between Oswald and the KGB because of his link to the KGB. And then, Epstein shows up. And once again, spends a whole afternoon with him at a hotel in Palm Beach. And, I think, he's under a lot of pressure. He comes back home and his daughter hands him my card. I had been there in the morning and I told his daughter that I wanted to talk to him and that I would be back in touch. He puts the card in his shirt pocket and goes upstairs and blows his head off. And so, I think you have a whole series of linkages there. He hadn't been a well man, mentally. Just months prior to that he had been treated for mental problems. So I think the linkage is there in terms of the pressures being put on him. And I do believe he committed suicide. I don't think there's enough evidence to indicate that he didn't.