Mark Lane, the middle of three children of Harry Lane, an accountant, and Betty Lane, a secretary, was born in Brooklyn on 24th February, 1927. After leaving James Madison High School, he joined the US Army in 1943. (1)
Lane was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1951. He later recalled that "my clients were, far more often than not, African-American or Puerto Rican, and impoverished.. It was clear that the right to a fair trial was diminished in many instances by prejudicial pre-trial publicity." (3)
A member of the Democratic Party, he was an important figure in the election of Alfred E. Santangelo and ran his New York congressional office for three years. In 1959 Lane became active in the New York Committee for Democratic Voters, a radical reform group challenging Manhattan's established Democratic machine. Another member of the group was Eleanor Roosevelt. (4)
A supporter of John F. Kennedy, he managed his presidential campaign in New York. In 1960 Lane was elected to the New York Legislature. "I confronted and defeated the local standard bearer of Tammany Hall, the incumbent representative to the state legislature from the Tenth Assembly District, in a primary election in 1960. The generous endorsements of Mrs. Roosevelt, Governor Lehman and Senate Eugene McCarthy, and writers and artists, including Norman Mailer and Jack Newfield, were important." (5)
Over the next couple of years he campaigned to abolish capital punishment and worked closely with Mary Wagner in her attempt to deal with the city's housing problem. Lane was elected a State Assemblyman in 1960 and served one term. Lane was also the only public official arrested as a Freedom Rider. According to Keith Schneider: He had organized rent strikes, opposed bomb shelter programs, joined the Freedom Riders, took on civil rights cases." (6)
Mark Lane took a close interest in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He read a statement in the New York Times by Jean Hill who claimed that she and her friend, Mary Moorman, who was taking Polaroid pictures of the motorcade, were only a few feet away from Kennedy when he was shot. Hill thought the shots had come from behind the wooden fence at the top of the knoll. Lane contacted Hill who told him that as soon as the firing stopped she ran towards the wooden fence in an attempt to find the gunman. However, Hill and Moorman were detained by two secret service men. After searching the two women they confiscated the picture of the assassination. (7)
Lane later recalled: "In the weeks following the assassination I analyzed the case, setting my analysis alongside what was then known about the case as I had done a hundred times before for clients I had represented. The difference was that there was no client… When I completed my analysis of the evidence and the charges, I had written a ten-thousand-word evaluation." A copy of the article was sent to Earl Warren. In a letter sent with the article, Lane wrote: "It would be appropriate that Mr. Oswald, from whom every legal right was stripped, be accorded counsel who may participate with the single purpose of representing the rights of the accused." In January, 1964, Marguerite Oswald hired Lane to represent Lee Harvey Oswald. (8)
For the first three weeks the mainstream media consistently reported that Oswald had been the lone gunman responsible for the death of Kennedy. However, James Aronson, the editor of the left-wing, National Guardian, had considerable doubts about this story. In the first edition of the newspaper after the assassination, he used the headline: "The Assassination Mystery: Kennedy and Oswald Killings Puzzle the Nation". (9)
Meanwhile, Mark Lane also tried to find a magazine to publish the article of the assassination. He approached Carey McWilliams: "The obvious choice, I thought, was the Nation. Its editor, Carey McWilliams, was an acquaintance. He had often asked me to write a piece for him… McWilliams seemed pleased to hear from me and delighted when I told him I had written something I wished to give to the Nation . When he learned of the subject matter, however, his manner approached panic." McWilliams told Lane: "We cannot take it. We don't want it. I am sorry but we have decided not to touch that subject." Lane was unaware that McWilliams had also rejected a proposal by Fred J. Cook to write an article on the assassination. (10)
Mark Lane also got the same response from the editors of Fact Magazine who said the subject matter was too controversial. It was also rejected by Life Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, The Reporter, and Look Magazine. However, Cedric Belfrage, a left-wing journalist, was also exploring this story and told his friend, James Aronson about Lane. "I heard that a maverick New York lawyer named Mark Lane had done some careful leg and brain work to produce a thesis casting doubt on the lone-assassin theory – and even whether Oswald had actually been involved in the crime." Aronson contacted Lane who told him that the article had been rejected by thirteen publications. Aronson offered to publish the article. Lane told him that "I would send it to him but I would not authorize him to publish it. He asked why. I said that I was seeking a broader, non-political publisher and that if the piece originated on the left, the subject would likely never receive the debate that it required." (11)
Lane now took the article James Wechsler, an editor of the New York Post. He also rejected it and said that Lane would never find a publisher and "urged him to forget about it". Lane now told him about Aronson's offer. Wechsler, according to Lane was "furious" when he heard this news. "Don't let them publish it… They'll turn it into a political issue." By this time the article had been turned down by seventeen publications and so Lane decided to let Aronson to publish the article in the National Guardian. (12)
The 10,000 word article, published on 19th December, 1963, was the longest story in its fifteen-year history. It was presented as a lawyer's report to the Warren Commission and titled A Brief for Lee Harvey Oswald. Aronson argued in the introduction: "The Guardian's publication of Lane's brief presumes only one thing: a man's innocence, under US. Law, unless or until proved guilty. It is the right of any accused. A presumption of innocence is the rock upon which American jurisprudence rests… We ask all our readers to study this document… Any information or analysis based on fact that can assist the Warren Commission is in the public interest – an interest which demands that everything possible be done to establish the facts in this case." (13)
Mark Lane argued: "In all likelihood there does not exist a single American community where reside 12 men or women, good and true, who presume that Lee Harvey Oswald did not assassinate President Kennedy. No more savage comment can be made in reference to the breakdown of the Anglo–Saxon system of jurisprudence. At the very foundation of our judicial operation lies a cornerstone which shelters the innocent and guilty alike against group hysteria, manufactured evidence, overzealous law enforcement officials, in short, against those factors which militate for an automated, prejudged, neatly packaged verdict of guilty. It is the sacred right of every citizen accused of committing a crime to the presumption of innocence." (14)
Aronson later admitted: "Few issues of the Guardian created such a stir. Anticipating greater interest we had increased the press run by 5,000, but an article in the New York Times about our story brought a heavy demand at the newsstands and dealers were calling for additional copies. Before the month was out we had orders for 50,000 reprints." (15)
After reading the article Bertrand Russell met Mark Lane. "I was greatly impressed, not only by the energy and astuteness with which Mark Lane pursued the relevant facts, but by the scrupulous objectivity with which he presented them, never inferring or implying meanings not inherent in the facts themselves." As a result of the meeting, Russell established a “Who Killed Kennedy Committee,” which consisted of John Arden, Caroline Benn, Lord Boyd-Orr, John Calder, William Empson, Victor Gollancz, Michael Foot, Kingsley Martin, Compton Mackenzie, J. B. Priestley, Herbert Read, Tony Richardson, Mervyn Stockwood, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and Kenneth Tynan. (16)
Aronson offered the article to both the United Press International and the Associated Press but both agencies rejected it. In January, 1964, Walter Winchell made a vicious attack on Mark Lane and the National Guardian in his regular newspaper column. He described the newspaper as "a virtual propaganda arm of the Soviet Union " and called Lane an "agitator" seeking to abolish the Un-American Activities Committee. Russell responded with a letter to the newspaper arguing that "Lane is no more a left-winger than was President Kennedy. He attempted to publish his evidence... in virtually every established American but was unsuccessful." (17)
Mark Lane continued to carry out his research into the assassination. He later recalled: "Had I known at the outset, when I wrote that article for the National Guardian, that I was going to be so involved that I would close my law practice, abandon my work, abandon my political career, be attacked by the very newspapers in New York City which used to hail my election to the state legislature; had I known that - had I known that I was going to be placed in the lookout books, so that when I come back into the country, I'm stopped by the immigration authorities – only in America, but no other country in the world – that my phones would be tapped, that not only would the FBI follow me around at lecture engagements, but present to the Warren Commission extracts of what I said at various lectures - I am not sure, if I knew all that, that I ever would have written that article in the first place." (18)
However, Lane did continue and by February 1965 he had completed the first draft of Rush to Judgment. "Virtually every publisher in the United States refused to print it. Years passed before we learned of the pressure that had been exerted by the FBI and the CIA against those who considered permitting the publication of a dissenting view in this affair. A British firm with offices in London, The Bodley Head, agreed to publish the book. Subsequently Holt, Rinehart and Winston in the United States agreed as well." (19)
Released in August 1966 the book included an introduction by one of Britain's leading historians, Hugh Trevor-Roper. It was a great success and sold 85,000 copies immediately and spent six months on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been claimed that the book "laid the foundations for the conspiracy movement that continues to this day." Lane argued that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone. Lane was an early proponent of the so-called grassy knoll theory, based on accounts from eyewitnesses who claimed to have heard shots coming from a sloping hill inside Dealey Plaza. He also dismissed the idea put forward by the Warren Report that a single “magic bullet” could have struck both John F. Kennedy and Governor John Connally. (20)
Mark Lane soon became aware of a smear campaign against him by the FBI and the CIA. As Bernard Fensterwald, pointed out: "Mark Lane, the long time critic of the Warren Report has often spoken of FBI harassment and surveillance directed against him. While many observers were at first skeptical about Lane's characteristically vocal allegations against the FBI, the list of classified Warren Commission documents that was later released substantiated Lane's charges, as it contained several FBI files about him. Lane had earlier uncovered a February 24, 1964 Warren Commission memorandum from staff counsel Harold Willens to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin. The memorandum revealed that FBI agents had Lane's movements and lectures under surveillance, and were forwarding their reports to the Warren Commission." (21)
Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney, was one of those who was greatly impressed by Rush to Judgment. He later claimed that Lane's work "sparked my general doubts about the assassination, but more importantly, they led me into specific areas of inquiry." (22) Garrison recruited Tom Bethell to investigate the case. He interviewed Vince Salandria who claimed that the conspirators were the CIA and military leaders who wanted to stop President Kennedy's effort to end the Cold War. He also contacted other researchers such as William Penn Jones, Sylvia Meagher and Mary Ferrell. (23)
Garrison also recruited Lane to help him investigate the case. He carried out interviews with witnesses who had dealings with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans and Mexico City. Lane also talked with Helen Markham about her identification of Oswald as the killer of J. D. Tippet. She described the man responsible as "stocky" with "bushy hair" whereas Oswald was "a fairly tall and skinny young man with thinning, light brown hair". (24)
Garrison eventually became convinced that a group of right-wing activists, including Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Eladio del Valle and Clay Shaw were involved in a conspiracy with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill John F. Kennedy. Garrison claimed this was in retaliation for his attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam. Banister died in 1964 during the investigation Ferrie and Del Valle were both murdered.
On 2nd March, 1967, Garrison announced the arrest of Clay Shaw on charges of conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy. At the trial in February, 1969, Perry Russo claimed that in September, 1963, he overheard Shaw and Ferrie discussing the proposed assassination of Kennedy. It was suggested that the crime could be blamed on Fidel Castro. Russo's testimony was discredited by the revelation that he underwent hypnosis and had been administered sodium pentathol, or "truth serum," at the request of the prosecution. It claimed that Russo only came up with a link between Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald, after these treatments. The jury found Shaw not guilty of conspiring to assassinate Kennedy.
Mark Lane believed the prosecution was mishandled: "Shaw was acquitted, Garrison roundly condemned, and the movement for the facts set further back. Later I was able to secure evidence that might have been useful to Garrison in the Shaw case but, of course, the case could not be tried again. The evidence proved that Shaw, who had known Oswald, had worked for the CIA, a fact that Shaw had successfully denied at his trial." (25)
Mark Lane carried out further research into the Kennedy assassination and later published the book, A Citizen's Dissent. He continued with his political career and in 1968 Dick Gregory chose him to be his running mate in several states in a write-in presidential candidacy under the banner of the Freedom and Peace Party. The campaign collected nearly 50,000 votes. He was also active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (26)
In 1973, his book Rush to Judgment was adapted into the feature film Executive Action. Co-written with two other left-wing writers, Dalton Trumbo and Donald Freed. Released two weeks before the tenth anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, opened to a storm of controversy and any television stations also refused to run trailers for the film. Most of the critics disliked the film but Nora Sayre writing in the New York Times commented: "Executive Action... offers a tactful, low-key blend of fact and invention. The film makers do not insist that they have solved John Kennedy's murder; instead, they simply evoke what might have happened... The film's sternest and strongest point is that only a crazed person acting on his own would have been acceptable to the American public - which, at that time, certainly did not want to believe in a conspiracy." (27)
Mark Lane represented the American Indian Movement in 1974, joining the lawyer William M. Kunstler, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in successfully defending Russell C. Means and Dennis J. Banks against federal charges of conspiracy, assault and larceny in leading the uprising at Wounded Knee, in February 1973, when the town was occupied in a 71-day standoff with federal marshals and FBI agents. (28)
Lane also carried out research into the assassination of Martin Luther King and co-authored the book, Code Name - Zorro (1977). Later it was published under the title, Murder in Memphis (2015). Lane eventually represented James Earl Ray, the accused killer, before the US House of Representative Select Committee on Assassinations. (29)
In August, 1978, Victor Marchetti published an article about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the liberty Lobby newspaper, Spotlight. In the article Marchetti argued that the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had obtained a 1966 CIA memo that revealed E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming had been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. Marchetti's article also included a story that Marita Lorenz had provided information on this plot. (30)
The HSCA did not publish this CIA memo linking its agents to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hunt now decided to take legal action against the Liberty Lobby and in December, 1981, he was awarded $650,000 in damages. Liberty Lobby appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. It was claimed that Hunt's attorney, Ellis Rubin, had offered a clearly erroneous instruction as to the law of defamation. The three-judge panel agreed and the case was retried. (31)
This time Lane defended the Liberty Lobby against Hunt's action. Lane discovered Marchettis sources, including William Corson. It also emerged that Marchetti had also consulted James Angleton and Alan J. Weberman before publishing the article. As a result of obtaining of getting depositions from David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, G. Gordon Liddy, Stansfield Turner and Marita Lorenz, plus a skillful cross-examination by Lane of E. Howard Hunt, the jury decided in January, 1995, that Marchetti had not been guilty of libel when he suggested that Kennedy had been assassinated by people working for the CIA. It has been claimed that "some jurors apparently voted against Hunt on the grounds that his reputation couldn’t be defamed". (32)
After interviewing Marita Lorenz Lane became convinced that Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt had both been involved in the conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Lane outlined his theory about the CIA's role in Kennedy's murder in a 1991 book, Plausible Denial. Lane wrote: "Marita Lorenz spent hours talking with me. She had known of my work in the area and she told me in some detail of her knowledge of the plan to assassinate President Kennedy and the roles played by Sturgis and Hunt." (33)
Lane returned to the John F. Kennedy assassination when he published The Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK (2011). He wrote: "I never meant to devote a major part of my life to this one subject... I am still here due to the fact that the defenders of the myth... hold on to a demonstrably false version of history.”
This was followed by his memoirs, Citizen Lane: Defending Our Rights in the Courts, the Capitol, and the Streets (2012). A documentary of the same name, written and directed by the actress Pauley Perrette, came out in 2013. In the film he states: "I’ve earned all of the friends I have in the world - Bertrand Russell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dick Gregory, just as an example of them. But more than that, I’ve earned every one of my enemies, every one of them, and I’m proud of that.” (34)
Mark Lane died at his home in Charlottesville on 10th May, 2016. According to his friend, Sue Herndon, he had a heart attack. Mark Lane’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife Patricia, and by three daughters. (35)
In all likelihood there does not exist a single American community where reside 12 men or women, good and true, who presume that Lee Harvey Oswald did not assassinate President Kennedy. No more savage comment can be made in reference to the breakdown of the Anglo–Saxon system of jurisprudence. At the very foundation of our judicial operation lies a cornerstone which shelters the innocent and guilty alike against group hysteria, manufactured evidence, overzealous law enforcement officials, in short, against those factors which militate for an automated, prejudged, neatly packaged verdict of guilty. It is the sacred right of every citizen accused of committing a crime to the presumption of innocence.
This presumption, it has been written, is a cloak donned by the accused when the initial charge is made, and worn by him continuously. It is worn throughout the entire case presented against him, and not taken from the defendant until after he has had an opportunity to cross–examine hostile witnesses, present his own witnesses and to testify himself.
Oswald did not testify. Indeed, there will be no case, no trial, and Oswald, murdered while in police custody, still has no lawyer. Under such circumstances the development of a possible defense is difficult, almost impossible. Under such circumstances, the development of such a defense is obligatory.
There will be an investigation. No investigation, however soundly motivated, can serve as an adequate substitute for trial. Law enforcement officials investigate every criminal case before it is presented to a jury. The investigation in almost all such cases results in the firm conviction by the investigator that the accused is guilty. A jury often finds the defendant innocent, notwithstanding.
That which intervenes between the zealous investigator and the jury is due process of law, developed at great cost in human life and liberty over the years. It is the right to have irrelevant testimony barred. It is the right to have facts, not hopes or thoughts or wishes or prejudicial opinions, presented. It is the right to test by cross-examination the veracity of every witness and the value of his testimony. It is, perhaps above all, the right to counsel of one’s own choice, so that all the other rights may be protected. In this defense, Oswald has forfeited all rights along with his life.
The reader, inundated at the outset with 48 solid television, radio and newspaper hours devoted to proving the guilt of the accused and much additional “evidence” since then, cannot now examine this case without bringing to it certain preconceived ideas. We ask, instead, only for a temporary suspension of certainty...
The FBI, having completed its investigation, has submitted what amounts to its findings and conclusions as well. The verdict, deftly and covertly divulged to the press, and then blared forth throughout the world, is impressively simple: Oswald is the assassin. He acted alone. This remarkable law enforcement and investigatory agency, unable to solve a single one of the more than 40 Birmingham bombings, is now able to function as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. No other American agency has presumed to occupy so many position of trust at one time.
The essential problem is that no investigating agency can fairly evaluate the fruits of its own work. Were the FBI certain of its conclusions it seems likely it would not be so reluctant to permit witnesses to talk with the press. It might not feel the need continually to leak information favorable to its verdict to the press. Most disquieting of all, however, is that the FBI, once wedded to a conclusion conceived before investigation, might be motivated to discover evidence which supports that conclusion. Within a few hours after Oswald was arrested the Dallas police, with the FBI at its side, announced the very same verdict now reinforced by the latest FBI discoveries. Under such circumstances, we fear that evidence tending to prove Oswald innocent might be discarded and evidence proving him guilty might be developed out of proportion or even created.
The Justice Department has already privately expressed disappointment with the FBI report, fearing that it has left too many questions unanswered.
The stakes are big The FBI investment in a Warren Commission finding identical with its own cannot be emphasized too boldly. Should the Warren Commission reach and publish a conclusion substantially different from the one submitted so publicly by the FBI, public confidence in the FBI would be so shaken as, in all likelihood, to render the FBI as it is now constituted almost absolutely useless. One can assume that the FBI wishes to avoid that result.
I think the evidence indicates - of course, the car came down Main, up here, and down to Elm Street, and was approximately here when the first shot was fired. The first shot struck the President in the back of the right shoulder, according to the FBI report, and indicates therefore that it came from some place in the rear - which includes the possibility of it coming from the Book Depository building.
The second bullet struck the President in the throat from the front, came from behind this wooden fence, high up on a grassy knoll. Two more bullets were fired. One struck the Elm - the Main Street curb, and caused some concrete, or lead, to scatter up and strike a spectator named James Tague in the face. Another bullet, fired from the rear, struck Governor Connally in the back. As the limousine moved up to approximately this point, another bullet was fired from the right front, struck the President in the head, drove him - his body, to the left and to the rear, and drove a portion of his skull backward, to the left and to the rear. Five bullets, fired from at least two different directions, the result of a conspiracy.
There was one conclusion, one basic conclusion that the Commission reached, I think, which can be supported by the facts, and that was the Commission's conclusion that Ruby killed Oswald. But, of course, that took place on television. It would have been very difficult to deny that. But, outside of that there's not an important conclusion which can be supported by the facts and - and this is the problem.
And what the Commission was thinking and what they were doing is still hidden from us, of course. The minutes of the Commission meetings are locked up in the National Archives, and no one can see them. A vast amount of the evidence, FBI reports, CIA reports, which may be directly related to the information we should have, are also locked up in the Archives. No one can see that.
The photographs and X-rays of the President's body, taken at the autopsy in Bethesda, Maryland, taken just before the autopsy was begun, taken by Naval technicians, which in and of themselves might resolve the whole question as to whether or not there was a conspiracy, cannot be seen by anyone today, and in fact, not one member of the Warren Commission ever saw the most important documents in the case, the photographs and the X-rays. And not one lawyer for the Commission ever saw - was curious enough to examine the most important evidence.
The Senate investigators finally established that FBI Director Hoover not only had prepared secret "derogatory dossiers" on the critics of the Warren Commission over the years, but had even ordered the preparation of similar "damaging" reports about staff members of the Warren Commission. Whether FBI Director Hoover intended to use these dossiers for purposes of blackmail has never been determined.
Although it was not until eleven years after the murder of John F. Kennedy that the FBI's crude harassment and surveillance of various assassination researchers and investigators became officially documented, other information about it had previously surfaced.
Mark Lane, the long time critic of the Warren Report has often spoken of FBI harassment and surveillance directed against him. While many observers were at first skeptical about Lane's characteristically vocal allegations against the FBI, the list of classified Warren Commission documents that was later released substantiated Lane's charges, as it contained several FBI files about him. Lane had earlier uncovered a February 24, 1964 Warren Commission memorandum from staff counsel Harold Willens to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin. The memorandum revealed that FBI agents had Lane's movements and lectures under surveillance, and were forwarding their reports to the Warren Commission.
In March, 1967, the official list of secret Commission documents then being held in a National Archives vault included at least seven FBI files on Lane, which were classified on supposed grounds of "national security." Among these secret Bureau reports were the following: Warren Commission Document 489, "Mark Lane, Buffalo appearances;" Warren Commission Document 694, "Various Mark Lane appearances;" Warren Commission Document 763, "Mark Lane appearances;" and Warren Commission Document 1457, "Mark Lane and his trip to Europe."
More than a decade after the assassination, when I won a lawsuit against various police and spy organizations in the United States district court in Washington, D.C., pursuant to the order of the court, I received many long-suppressed documents.
Among them was a top-secret CIA report. It stated that the CIA was deeply troubled by my work in questioning the conclusions of the Warren Report and that polls that had been taken revealed that almost half of the American people believed as I did. The report stated, "Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse, results." This "trend of opinion," the CIA said, "is a matter of concern" to "our organization." To counter developing opinion within the United States, the CIA suggested that steps be taken. It should be emphasized, the CIA said, that "the members of the Warren Commission were naturally chosen for their integrity, experience, and prominence. They represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.
The purpose of the CIA secret document was apparent. In this instance, there was no need for incisive analysis. The CIA report stated "The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments." The commission had been chosen in such a fashion so that it might subsequently be asserted that those who questioned its finding, by comparing the known facts to the false conclusions offered by the commission, might be said to be subversive.
Who were these people who wished to throw suspicion upon the leaders of the land? The CIA report listed them as Mark Lane, Joachim Joesten, as well as a French writer, Leo Sauvage. Most of the criticism was directed at me. The CIA directed that this matter be discussed with "liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)," instructing these persons "that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition." The CIA continued: "Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation." The CIA was quite specific about the means that should be employed to prevent criticism of the report:
"Employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passage to assets. Our play should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (i) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (ii) politically interested, (iii) financially interested, (iv) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (v) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Edward Jay Epstein's theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher Knebel article and Spectator piece for background." According to the CIA, my book, Rush to Judgment, was "much more difficult to answer as a whole." The agency document did not list any errors in the book.
Just in case the book reviewers did not get the point, the CIA offered specific language that they might incorporate into their critiques. "Reviewers" of the books "might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the Report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics."
Among those who criticized Rush to Judgment and other books along lines similar to those suggested by the CIA were the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and, especially, Walter Cronkite and CBS. Among those who did not march in lockstep with the intelligence agencies' effort to destroy the First Amendment were the Houston Post; Norman Mailer, who reviewed Rush to Judgment in the United States and Len Deighton, who reviewed it in London.
The question persists, in view of the elaborate and illegal program undertaken by the CIA to malign American citizens and to discourage publishers from printing dissents from the Warren Commission Report, as to the motivation for these efforts. Again, we turn to the CIA dispatch: "Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation." Yes, the CIA was directly involved and it did make its contribution to the investigation. What else the CIA did to constitute its "direct" involvement in the assassination was left unsaid by the authors of its report.
Let us focus at this point upon the information that the CIA contributed. Its major contribution was the presentation of the Mexico City story to Earl Warren. The CIA seemed desperately concerned that its Mexico City story might be questioned. Indeed, it was this aberrant behavior by the CIA with this aspect of the case that led me to focus more intently on the case.
The first book review of Rush to Judgment was never printed in any newspaper or journal, at least not in the form in which the review originally appeared. The book was published in mid-August 1966. Before I saw the printer's proofs, the CIA had obtained a copy. On August 2, 1966, the CIA published a document entitled "Review of Book - Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane." I did not learn the existence of that document for almost a decade. The review centered upon statements I had written about Oswald in Mexico City: "On pages 351 and 352, Lane discusses the photograph of the unknown individual which was taken by the CIA in Mexico City. The photograph was furnished by this Agency to the FBI after the assassination of President Kennedy. The FBI then showed it to Mrs. Marguerite Oswald who later claimed the photograph to be that of lack Ruby. A discussion of the incident, the photograph itself, and related affidavits, all appear in the Commission's Report (Vol. XI, p. 469; Vol. XVI, p. 638). Lane asserts that the photograph was evidently taken in front of the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City on 27 September 1963, and that it was furnished to the FBI on the morning of 22 November."
The concern about my relatively nonincriminating disclosure was surprising to me at the time, however, a decade after the assassination it became apparent that the case that the CIA had so painstakingly constructed, placing Oswald in Mexico City at the two embassies, had fallen apart as if it were a house of cards. Not one material bit of evidence remained. It was a new day. The war in Vietnam and crimes committed by authorities, including President Nixon, were beginning to convince the American people that simplistic explanations of past national tragedies might be challenged. Statements by leaders of government or federal police officials were no longer sacrosanct.
To the considerable discomfort of the government in general and the Warren Commissioners in particular - and despite the disdain which emanated from the direction of the media at large - it was not long before there were some who felt compelled to speak out against the Report and its findings. Lawyer Mark Lane, for instance, was approached by Marguerite Oswald, Lee's mother, to argue a posthumous defence for her son. Upon encountering the nitty gritty of the 26 volumes of the Report, Lane, like other important researchers such as Sylvia Meagher and Harold Weisberg, was appalled at the disorder he found. Facts had been distorted and fre- quently ignored, important witnesses had not been called and, of those who were, often the accepted and officially recorded testimony had been dubious. Too often interrogators had conducted questioning 'off the record' so that important testimony did not find its way into the pages of the Report.
In my view, were it not for the pervasive influence of a handful of individuals, there would be no plague of conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
The first of these regrettable characters was Jack Ruby, who by stealing the executioner's role, created generations of doubters, and not unreasonably so. It was an audacious, desperate act that would seem to make sense only if Jack Ruby had a very powerful, rational motive for killing Lee Harvey Oswald...
The second key character was Mark Lane, for whose predations I must shoulder some blame. Had I not foolishly given Lane a packet of then-secret witness statements in December of 1963, believing him when he said his single motive was to act as devil's advocate for Oswald ("I want to represent this boy," Lane told me. "I don't think he did it."), I wonder if people such as Lane, and later Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone, would be viewed today as brave souls who fought to bring the light of "truth" to the assassination story.
Lane, an attorney and one-term New York Democratic state assemblyman from the JFK wing of the party, in early December wrote a lengthy piece in The National Guardian laying out a litany of reasons that made him conclude Oswald could not have killed Kennedy. The story was published well before Lane ever visited Dallas, spoke to any witnesses or investigators or contacted me. It was riddled with inaccuracies and unsupported suppositions.
His book, Rush to Judgment, was a mishmash of unproven and unlikely allegations and off-the-wall speculations. Fifteen publishing houses turned it down, because they were too far behind Lane on the manufactured-controversy learning curve.
Only Holt, Rinehart and Winston guessed the true potential for profits in Rush to Judgment. They issued the book as a $5.95 hardback in 1966 and sold 30,000 copies in just two weeks. It was a publishing home run, and it showed the way for legions of other buffs to get rich and famous.
Lane was the New York lawyer and lecture artist who, before Garrison, was chief honcho among the Warren Commission critics. He was one of those people to whom I took an instant and irrational dislike. (Another is the dreadful Al Lowenstein, that boy scout of reform politicians.) I am hard put to explain why; demurring to the laws of slander, I can only cop out to brute instinct. Were I a dog, I would have growled when Lane came around. ("Watch out for the guys who come in fast," Cookie Picetti once told me, meaning that the type of guy who comes through the front door in a hurry, talking a busy streak as he breezes up to the bar, is invariably going to borrow money or cash a check that will go to the moon and bounce back.) Perhaps it was Lane's speed that turned me off. He moved about the world at a roadrunner's pace, a commercially-minded crusader, developing President Kennedy's murder into a solid multimedia property. Lane produced a book, Rush to Judgment, which sold like a Bible beachball at a Baptist resort; a movie of the same name, which consisted largely of on the street interviews with witnesses who said Oswald went thisaway, not thataway; and a long-playing record on which, for the price of an LP, you could hear Lane's testimony to the Warren Commission - consisting, if my recollection is correct, of Lane telling the commission he knew something they didn't know, but couldn't tell them what it was.
Howard Hunt, close associate of David Atlee Phillips, with whom he worked in the both the CIA's Guatemalan campaign of 1954 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Hunt would later be arrested for his role in the Watergate affair. In one of Hunt's libel suits, one Marita Lorenz gave sworn testimony that Lee Harvey Oswald, American mercenaries Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming, and Cuban exiles including Orlando Bosch, Pedro Diaz Lanz, and the brothers Guillermo and Ignacio Novo Sampol, had met one November midnight in 1963 at the Miami home of Orlando Bosch and had studied Dallas street maps. She also swore that she and Sturgis were at that time in the employ of the CIA and that they received payment from Howard Hunt under the name "Eduardo," They arrived in Dallas on 21 November 1963, and stayed at a motel, where the group met Howard Hunt. Hunt stayed for about forty-five minutes and at one point handed an envelope of cash to Sturgis. About an hour after Hunt left, Jack Ruby came to the door. Lorenz says that this was the first time she had seen Ruby. By this time, she said, it was early evening. In her testimony, Lorenz identified herself and her fellow passengers as members of Operation Forty, the CIA-directed assassination team formed in 1960 in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion. She described her role as that of a "decoy".
It began with a CIA document classified Top Secret. How do I know that? A decade after the assassination of President Kennedy, with the assistance of the ACLU, I won a precedent-setting lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, DC, brought pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. The court ordered the police and spy organizations to provide to me many long-suppressed documents.
The CIA document stated that it was deeply troubled by my work in questioning the conclusions of the Warren Commission. The CIA had concluded that my book Rush to Judgment was difficult to answer; indeed, after a careful and thorough analysis of that work by CIA experts, the CIA was unable to find and cite a single error in the book. The CIA complained that almost half of the American people agreed with me and that "Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse, results." This "trend of opinion," the CIA stated, "is a matter of concern" to "our organization." Therefore, the CIA concluded, steps must be taken.
The CIA directed that methods of attacking me should be discussed with "liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)," instructing them that "further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition." The CIA stressed that their assets in the media should "point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists." Further, their media contacts should "use their influence to discourage" what the CIA referred to as "unfounded and irresponsible speculation." Rush to Judgment, then the New York Times number-one bestselling book, contained no speculation.
The CIA in its report instructed book reviewers and magazines that contained feature articles how to deal with me and others who raised doubts about the validity of the Warren Report. Magazines should, the CIA stated, "employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics," adding that "feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose." The CIA instructed its media assets that "because of the standing of the members of the Warren Commission, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society." The CIA was referring to such distinguished gentlemen as Allen Dulles, the former director of the CIA; President Kennedy had fired Dulles from that position for having lied to him about the Bay of Pigs tragedy. Dulles was then appointed by Lyndon Johnson to the Warren Commission to tell the American people the truth about the assassination.
The purpose of the CIA was not in doubt. The CIA stated: "The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims" of those who doubted the Warren Report. The CIA stated that "background information" about me and others "is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments."
With this background we now turn to Max Holland's Nation article, which states that there was a "JFK Lawyers' Conspiracy" among four lawyers: former Senator Gary Hart; Professor Robert Blakey; Jim Garrison, the former District Attorney of New Orleans and later a state judge in Louisiana; and me.
Before I wrote Rush to Judgment I had never met any of the other three "co-conspirators." I still have not had the pleasure of meeting Senator Hart, and I know of no work that he has done in this area. I met Professor Blakey only once; he had been appointed chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and at that meeting I told him that I was disappointed in his approach and methods. Not much of a lawyers' conspiracy.
Each of the other statements as to alleged fact are false and defamatory. Holland states that I am not scrupulous, that I am dishonest and that I spread innuendo about the sinister delay in the Warren Commission investigation, an assertion not made by me but fabricated in its entirety by Holland. As a silent echo of his CIA associates Holland does not point to one assertion as to fact, of the thousands I have made about the facts surrounding the death of our President, that he claims is inaccurate.
Finally, Holland strikes pay dirt. He uncovers, are you ready for this, the fact that I had asserted that "the government was indifferent to the truth." I confess. Is that now a crime under the Patriot Act? Isn't that what The Nation is supposed to be asserting and proving?
Holland states that the KGB was secretly funding my work with a payment of "$12,500 (in 2005 dollars)." It was a secret all right. It never happened. Holland's statement is an outright lie. Neither the KGB nor any person or organization associated with it ever made any contribution to my work. No one ever made a sizable contribution, with the exception of Corliss Lamont, who contributed enough for me to fly one time from New York to Dallas to interview eyewitnesses. The second-largest contribution was $50 given to me by Woody Allen. Have Corliss and Woody now joined Holland's fanciful conspiracy?
Funds for the work of the Citizens Committee of Inquiry were raised by me. I lectured each night for more than a year in a Manhattan theater. The Times referred to the very well attended talks as one of the longest-running performances off Broadway. That was not a secret. I am surprised that Holland never came across that information, especially since he refers to what he calls "The Speech" in his diatribe.
Apparently, Holland did not fabricate the KGB story; his associates at the CIA did. There is proof for that assertion, but I fear that I have taken too much space already. For that information, contact me at email@example.com.
Am I being unfair when I suggest a connection between Holland and the CIA? Here is the CIA game plan: Fabricate a disinformation story. Hand it to a reporter with liberal credentials; for example, a Nation contributing editor. If the reporter cannot find a publication then have the CIA carry it on its own website under the byline of the reporter. Then the CIA can quote the reporter and state, " according to..."
Holland writes regularly for the official CIA website. He publishes information there that he has been given by the CIA. The CIA, on its official website, then states, "According to Holland..." If you would like to look into this matter of disinformation laundering, enter into your computer "CIA.gov + Max Holland." You will find on the first page alone numerous articles by Holland supporting and defending the CIA and attacking those who dare to disagree, as well as CIA statements attributing the information to Holland.
A question for The Nation. When Holland writes an article for you defending the CIA and attacking its critics, why do you describe him only as "a Nation contributing editor" and author? Is it not relevant to inform your readers that he also is a contributor to the official CIA website and then is quoted by the CIA regarding information that the agency gave him?
An old associate of mine, Adlai Stevenson, once stated to his political opponent, a man known as a stranger to the truth--if you stop telling lies about me I will stop telling the truth about you. I was prepared to adopt that attitude here. But I cannot. Your publication has defamed a good friend, Jim Garrison, after he died and could not defend himself against demonstrably false charges.
You have not served your readers by refusing to disclose Holland's CIA association. The Nation and Holland have engaged in the type of attack journalism that recalls the bad old days. If I fought McCarthyism in the 1950s as a young lawyer, how can I avoid it now when it appears in a magazine that has sullied its own history? The article is filled with ad hominem attacks, name calling and fabrications, and it has done much mischief. I will hold you and Holland accountable for your misconduct. I can honorably adopt no other course.
To mitigate damages I require that you repudiate the article and apologize for publishing it. That you publish this letter as an unedited article in your next issue. That you do not publish a reply by Holland in which he adds to the defamation and the damage he has done, a method you have employed in the past. That you provide to me the mailing addresses of your contributing editors and members of your editorial board so that I may send this letter to them. I am confident that Gore Vidal and Bob Borosage, Tom Hayden and Marcus Raskin, all of whom I know, and many others such as Molly Ivins, John Leonard and Lani Guinier, who I do not know but who I respect and admire, would be interested in the practices of The Nation. In addition, I suggest that ethical journalism requires that in the future you fully identify your writers so that your readers may make an informed judgment about their potential bias.
If you have a genuine interest in the facts regarding the assassination you should know that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (the United States Congress) concluded that probably a conspiracy was responsible for the murder and that, therefore, the Warren Report that Holland defends so aggressively is probably wrong. In addition, the only jury to consider this question decided in a trial held in the US District Court in a defamation case that the newspaper did not defame E. Howard Hunt when it suggested that Hunt and the CIA had killed the President. The forewoman of the jury stated that the evidence proved that the CIA had been responsible for the assassination.
I have earned many friends in this long effort. Those who have supported my work include Lord Bertrand Russell, Arnold Toynbee, Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, Dr. Linus Pauling, Senator Richard Schweicker, Paul McCartney, Norman Mailer, Richard Sprague, Robert Tannenbaum and also members of the House of Representatives, including Don Edwards, Henry Gonzales, Andrew Young, Bella Abzug, Richardson Preyer, Christopher Dodd, Herman Badillo, Mervyn Dymally, Mario Biaggi and, above all, according to every national poll, the overwhelming majority of the American people. I have apparently earned a few adversaries along the way. Too bad that they operate from the shadows; that tends to remove the possibility of an open debate.
The assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas on 22 November 1963 remains a subject of contention and dispute more than half a century later. The lawyer Mark Lane, who has died aged 89, was at the centre of that dispute almost immediately after the killing, and remained there, often controversially, for almost all that time. His 1966 book, Rush to Judgment, an indictment of the Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was Kennedy’s lone, crazed assassin, became the first bestselling book to suggest an untold story to the killing.
Lane was an indefatigable researcher and a relentless self-promoter, and his activism and pursuit of conspiracy exposed him to much criticism. He was often accused of sensationalism and hyperbole, which could obscure the most valuable parts of his work; his career might stand as a metaphor for the chaotic web that surrounds the assassination itself.
Lane was drawn to the assassination after reading early press reports of witnesses contradicting the official version, that assumed Oswald’s guilt. As a lawyer, he realised the evidence was shaky, with no cross-examination on Oswald’s behalf, and he quickly wrote a 10,000-word article, Oswald Innocent? A Lawyer’s Brief.
The only publisher he found was a small, far-left weekly, the National Guardian, based in New York. In Britain, Bertrand Russell followed up with a similar article and formed the Who Killed Kennedy Committee with JB Priestley, Hugh Trevor-Roper and others.
Oswald’s mother, Marguerite, hired Lane to represent her son, but the Warren Commission would not accept him. They did, however, call him to testify. He used his own interviews with witnesses to point out anomalies in their testimonies, but when the Warren Report was published his points were dismissed or ignored.
Like his article, Rush to Judgment had a similar story of rejection before it was published, and then sold 85,000 copies immediately. Lane and the filmmaker Emile De Antonio combined on a documentary based on the book. In 1969, Lane published A Citizen’s Dissent in response to his critics, and he and the screenwriter Donald Freed collaborated on a script adapted from Rush to Judgement, which was rewritten by Dalton Trumbo and became the 1973 film Executive Action.
Lane was already an activist by the time Kennedy died. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, where his father, Henry, was an accountant and his mother, Betty, a secretary. After serving in US Army intelligence in Vienna, after the second world war he studied at Long Island University and took a degree at Brooklyn Law School, first making his name when he exposed mistreatment in a Long Island psychiatric home.
In the late 1950s he helped found a liberal reform faction, backed by Eleanor Roosevelt, within the New York Democratic party, and in 1960, as Kennedy became president, he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He served one term, during which he was arrested during the civil rights Freedom Rides in the south, but he was defeated in the primaries for Congress in 1962.
In 1968 he was the comedian Dick Gregory’s vice-presidential candidate for the Freedom and Peace party, and was one of the celebrities alongside Jane Fonda in the early days of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He went on to work as a consultant to the New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in his investigation of the Kennedy assassination, which became the basis of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK.
Mark Lane, who has died aged 89, was a maverick lawyer whose book Rush to Judgment, criticising the findings of the Warren Commission into the assassination of president John F Kennedy, laid the foundations for the conspiracy movement that continues to this day.
A minor figure in legal circles prior to the events of November 22 1963, Lane soon emerged as the self-appointed counsel to the ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been shot and killed while in custody for the murder.
When his request to represent the dead man before the Warren Commission was rejected, Lane made an unsuccessful petition to act as legal counsel to Lee’s mother Marguerite. “We had very, very little trouble of any kind,” Chief Justice Earl Warren later recalled, “except from one fellow by the name of Mark Lane. And he was the only one that treated the commission with contempt.”
Not content with presenting his account to the inquiry, Lane began pursuing his own, unauthorised investigation. He set up a “Citizens’ Committee of Inquiry”, with offices in New York and London, and delivered hundreds of speeches. Among his early supporters was the philosopher Bertrand Russell.
After almost a year touting his manuscript to publisher after publisher, Lane finally found a willing taker in the British publishing house The Bodley Head. With an introduction by Hugh Trevor-Roper, Rush to Judgment was released in America in 1966 and spent six months on the New York Times bestseller list. A documentary film of the same name was completed in 1967, and Warner Brothers used the book as the basis for Executive Action (1973), a feature film starring Burt Lancaster.
The authors of the Warren Report were quick to rebuff Lane’s claims, most notably the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone. Lane was an early proponent of the so-called “grassy knoll” theory, based on accounts from eyewitnesses who claimed to have heard shots coming from a sloping hill inside Dealey Plaza – rather than the book depository where Oswald was based. He also dismissed the Warren Report’s suggestion that a single “magic bullet” could have struck both Kennedy and Governor John Connally, causing fatal injury to the president and embedding itself in Connally’s thigh.
Before long, key players in the events of November 1963 had begun to declare their loyalties. Dan Rather, the CBS reporter who broke the news of the assassination, dubbed Lane “the gadfly of the Warren Commission”. Governor Connally dismissed Lane’s calls to reopen the inquiry as the work of a “journalistic scavenger”.
The Kennedy assassination, one of the manifest turning points of the 20th century, was the pivotal moment in Mr. Lane’s life and career. He would go on to raise the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. five years later, but it was his Kennedy inquiry that made his name.
Before the president’s murder on Nov. 22, 1963, Mr. Lane was a minor figure in New York’s legal and political circles. He had organized rent strikes, opposed bomb shelter programs, joined the Freedom Riders, took on civil rights cases and was active in the New York City Democratic Party. He was elected a State Assemblyman in 1960 and served one term.
After the Kennedy murder, Mr. Lane devoted much of the next three decades to its investigation. Almost immediately he began the Citizens’ Committee of Inquiry, interviewed witnesses, collected evidence and delivered speeches on the assassination in the United States and in Europe, where he befriended Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, who became an early supporter of Mr. Lane’s efforts.
With a strong personality and a yen for visibility and risk, Mr. Lane also began cultivating and attracting high-profile clients. In the 1960s he worked with Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney who was investigating the Kennedy assassination in a case that Oliver Stone featured in the 1991 movie “JFK.” He represented leaders of the Wounded Knee uprising by American Indians as well as the cult leader Jim Jones, narrowly surviving the mass suicide of Jones and his followers in Guyana.
Mr. Lane emerged as one of the most important experts on the Kennedy assassination after President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Warren Commission to investigate it. Mr. Lane testified before the commission in 1964 and was a legal counsel to Marguerite Oswald, the suspect’s mother.
He published the results of his inquiry in August 1966 in Rush to Judgment, his first book, which dominated best-seller lists for two years. With a trial lawyer’s capacity to amass facts and a storyteller’s skill in distilling them into a coherent narrative, he asserted that the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald was the lone gunman was incomplete, reckless at times and implausible.
The book raised doubts about Oswald’s marksmanship and the expertise of police agencies, and it sought to ridicule the Warren Commission’s conclusion that one “magic bullet” could have struck and grievously injured President Kennedy and Gov. John Connally of Texas and have still emerged essentially intact.
Mr. Lane’s findings were disputed aggressively by the government. Still, the financial success of Rush to Judgment and its conclusions prompted the development of a cottage industry of books on the assassination, written both by those who believed in a conspiracy and by those who did not. More than 2,000 such titles were eventually published. A documentary of the same name, written and directed by the actress Pauley Perrette, came out in 2013.