Vincent Salandria was born in Philadelphia in 1926. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1951 he became a lawyer. A pacifist, Salandria has a long record of campaigning for civil rights. As a lawyer he has specialized in labour law and civil liberties issues.
A member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Salandria was one of the first people to criticize the Warren Commission Report. In 1964 he published an article in the Legal Intelligencer where he argued that the wounds of President John Kennedy suggested he had not been killed by a lone gunman.
Over the next few years Salandria argued that Kennedy had been assassinated by "the national security state" because he was trying to bring an end to the Cold War. He also rejected the idea that the assassination was organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mafia, the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro or Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 1975 Salandria told Gaeton Fonzi: "I'm afraid we were misled. All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one - not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official - no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their Government was powerless."
Salandria's book, The JFK Assassination: A False Mystery Concealing State Crimes, was published in 1999. In the foreword Salandria argues: "I wrote them (essays on the assassination), not to demonstrate any skills I had as a writer or as a scholar, since my writings clearly show my limitations as such. Rather, I wrote these pieces to explain how easy it was to come to the truth of how and why our national security state killed President Kennedy in order to perpetuate the Cold War."
Vincent J. Salandria, aged 92, collapsed and died while walking his dog on 23rd August, 2020.
I began to examine the post-assassination events as they unfolded. I took note of the reports coming in about the alleged assassin. I wondered whether his alleged left-wing credentials were bona fide. Very early in my work in the peace movement, I learned that some ostensible peace activists were infiltrating government agent provocateurs who were not what they at first blush appeared to be. May I suggest that some of our critics of the Warren Report are government agents. Can we honestly expect that the powerful elements in our society who dispatched our President with that deadly Dealey Plaza fusillade and then sought to cover up the reasons why he was killed would leave to ordinary citizens to inform the public about the real meaning of the assassination of President Kennedy?
On November 23, 1963 I discussed the assassination with my then brother-in-law, Harold Feldman. I told him that we should keep our eyes focused on what if anything would happen to the suspected assassin that weekend. I said that if the suspect was killed during the weekend, then we would have to consider Oswald's role to be that of a possible intelligence agent and patsy. I told him if such happened, the assassination would have to be considered as the work of the very center of U.S. power.
I sensed that there was a need to be quick in formulating conclusions from the killing of Oswald. A successful political assassination is carried out to produce policy changes. Those policy changes generally take effect quickly. Consequently, it behooves a democratic citizenry to come promptly to their own reasoned conclusions about the killing of their head of state. Citizens cannot leave to their government, which under republican principals is their mere servant, to shape their thinking on such a vital subject. Nor can the citizenry await the work of the academic establishment before formulating its conclusions.
When Oswald was served up on camera as disposable Dealey Plaza flotsam and jetsam and was killed by Jack Ruby I saw a subtle signal of a high level conspiracy. There is every reason to think that intelligence agencies, when they choose a killer to dispose of a patsy, make that choice by exercising the same degree of care that they employ in selecting the patsy. Their choice of Jack Ruby much later would - by providing a fall-back position for the government - serve the interests of the assassins. As the Warren Report would unravel, a deceased Ruby's past connections to the Mafia produced a false candidate for governmental apologists to designate as the power behind the killing.
Immediately following the assassination I began to collect news items about Lee Harvey Oswald. A pattern began to emerge. Oswald's alleged defection to the Soviets, his alleged Castro leanings as the sole member of a Fair Play for Cuba chapter in New Orleans, his posing with a rifle and a Trotskyist newspaper, his writings to the Communist Party USA, his study of the Russian language while in the Marine Corps, told me that he was not a genuine leftist, but rather was a US intelligence agent.
It was apparent to me that no legitimate leftist straddles so many diverse political fences in a fractionalized American left. I saw Oswald's alleged leftist baggage as an effort on the part of the killers to send an intimidating message to the American left. The left was being signaled by the killers to be silent or to suffer a possible pogrom against it. The Cubanization of Oswald was a further signal to the left that the American military if provoked by criticism might seek to employ the Oswaldian Cuban tableau as an excuse to invade Cuba. For a summary of Oswald and his obvious connections to our intelligence community, see Professor Christopher Sharrett's "Oswald and US Intelligence" in the appendix to Dr. E. Martin Schotz's book, History Will Not Absolve Us.
Similarly, I saw Oswald's membership in the ACLU as a device to send a message to frighten liberals into silence. As it turned out, the ACLU did not see any civil liberties issues in substituting for a legal inquest on the killing of President Kennedy a series of non-public and secret sessions by the Warren Commission. The ACLU had taken the bait.
After I began to write on the assassination, the ACLU privately assumed a position against my work. The national office expressed displeasure with me for writing on the subject and in so doing identifying myself as what I was, a long-time volunteer lawyer for the ACLU. The executive director of the Philadelphia ACLU branch, with whom I had over many years a fine working relationship and friendship, conveyed to me the National Office's displeasure with my writings on the assassination. My offer to resign was accepted with alacrity.
The use of a Mafia-related killer to dispatch the patsy while in custody, and that patsy's patently false left-wing and liberal guises, convinced me that the assassination was the work of US intelligence. Keenly aware of the dangers which our Cold War national security state posed to the planet, I determined to continue the quixotic work of investigating the assassination. I sought to learn from and to help those who were willing to investigate and write on the criminality of their government in the assassination and its cover up.
In this effort I was supported and guided by my friends, Fred J. Cook, Robert Dean, Dave Dellinger, Jim DiEugenio, Harold Feldman, Gaeton Fonzi, Jim Garrison, Reverend Steve Jones, Professor Thomas Katen, Christopher Kefalos, Barbara LaMonica, David S. Lifton, Mark Lane, Staughton Lynd, Ray Marcus, Sylvia Meagher, Professor Joan Mellen, Dr. Michael Morrissey, Marguerite Oswald, Fletcher Prouty, Mort Sahl, Professor Chris Sharrett, Dr. Anita Schmuckler, Gary Schoerner, Dr. E. Martin Schotz, John Suchardt, Tink Thompson, and Harold Weisberg. Their dedication to democracy and truth served to sustain me.
Armed with an exploratory model of explanation that the Kennedy assassination was a Cold War killing, I began to sift through the myriad facts regarding the assassination which our government and the US media offered us. What I did was to examine the data in a different fashion from the approach adopted by our news media. I chose to assess how an innocent civilian- controlled US government would have reacted to those data. I also envisioned how a guilty US national security state which may have gained control of and may have become semi-autonomous to the civilian US governmental structure would have reacted to the data of the assassination. The use of this simple method of analysis applied to the assassination data and the reactions to those data by our national security state and its civilian allies thoroughly convinced me that my model of explanation was correct. No other interpretation adequately explained how our government, our media and our establishment reacted to the facts relevant to President Kennedy's killing.
I submit that the manner in which the data were handled by our government demonstrate that: (1) the national security state at the very highest level of its power killed President John F. Kennedy for his efforts at seeking to develop a modus vivendi with the Soviets and with socialist Cuba, (2) subservient U.S. government, civilian establishment and mainstream media persons criminally and systematically aided the warfare state in covering up the assassination, and (3) in light of this criminal cover-up by the American power elite that there is no logical way we can conclude that the assassination was not the product of our warfare system. There was also no way rationally to conclude that the assassination was a result of the labor of the Soviets, Castro, the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover, President Johnson, or that any lower level US governmental operatives had been solely responsible for the execution of President Kennedy.
As I examined the evidence I was confronted with an unvarying pattern. Whenever evidence of a conspiracy emerged - and mountains of facts were supplied by the government for us to scrutinize - the government refused to act on that evidence. On the other hand, whenever any data emerged, no matter how thoroughly incredible, which could possibly be interpreted as supporting a lone assassin theory - the government invariably and with the greatest solemnity declared that such data proved the correctness of the lone assassin myth. That is not the earmark of an innocent, blundering government.
I posited that an innocent civilian government would have in an unbiased fashion accepted, made public, and protected all of the assassination data. An innocent government would have fairly evaluated the data irrespective of whether or not they supported a particular conclusion. An innocent civilian government would never have accepted an improbable explanation of data while other probable explanations were extant.
I concluded that only a criminally guilty government which was beholden to the killers would reject a probable explanation of the evidence coming into its possession and instead would seize upon an improbable explanation for the evidence. Most importantly, I concluded that only a guilty government seeking to serve the interests of the assassins would consistently resort to accepting one improbable conclusion after another while rejecting a long series of probable conclusions. In short, while purporting to tell the truth, our government turned probability theory on its head. In an unvarying pattern it consistently accepted any data that even remotely supported a single-assassin concept and rejected data which incontrovertibly supported a conspiracy.
Although the assassination buffs are, by and large, people who are sensitive to the possibility of government harassment, none of them complains of being hounded by the F.B.I. or spied on or persecuted. Even as they persisted in investigating a crime most people were trying to put out of their minds and in questioning the integrity of a panel chosen precisely because its members were so distinguished as to be above question, they received no hostile phone calls or insulting letters. Salandria lost no clients. Instead, the buffs experienced a lack of concern that most of them found more maddening than overt hostility - particularly because they seemed to find the least concern among those whom they might have expected to be sympathetic. If one group was in favor of accepting the Report, or at least letting the matter lie, it was the liberals, Marcus says. Salandria agrees: I had all the liberal credentials - SANE, A.C.L.U., and all that. But the idea that I should be undertaking to denigrate a report prepared and endorsed and presided over by Earl Warren scared my liberal friends. Some of them got very panicky and some of them departed under the strain.
Salandria believes that the reluctance of liberals to listen to arguments against the Report - a reluctance he still finds today - is based on more than merely the desire to protect a man who has so often been attacked from the right for his liberalism. I think that this assassination in many ways provides a mirror for this society and the roles of different groups in this society, Salandria says. The liberal - with whom I felt closely identified - really wasnt what he purported to be. What he purported to be was someone who wanted to mollify the misery in this society, and alter the society so that it would become freer, more responsive to the needs of the underdog, more egalitarian, and perhaps more peaceful. But as a consequence of this assassination, I see the liberal as different. I see him as being more interested in protecting government, in even apologizing for government, surrendering the skepticism in favor of support for power - in, I think, an honest belief that the governmental power provided is good governmental power and that good governmental power can be translated to mean power exercised by good men, good men translated to mean liberal men. That these good men could do no wrong is a kind of religious feeling that the liberal has, and therefore, if he is to serve society, he is not to be skeptical of governmental power, not to question authority exercised by good men in a good direction, but rather to accommodate himself and his ideas to this power, and protect it against unwarranted attacks. Any attack on this Commission was unwarranted.
Salandria, a short, quick-moving man of thirty-nine, values his independence - he runs his own law practice in Philadelphia from an office in his own house - and he is not, by nature, an accommodator. If the government says black, Vince figures white, Thompson once said of him, fondly. Hes a marvelously skeptical man. In talking about the assassination, which is almost all he talks about, Salandria finds himself more at ease with conservatives than with those who share his political beliefs. I have found many honest conservatives, he says. You confront them with the possibility of governmental wrongdoing and they do not flare at you, in liberal fashion. They will ask you what you have to offer by way of evidence, and they will listen to you. They are not gullible, but they will not attack you for a suggestion that something could be wrong. Salandria, who does more public speaking than most of the buffs, rarely appears before a liberal audience, but he is accustomed to being received enthusiastically by such organizations as the North Penn Young Republican Club, the Philadelphia County Dental Society, and the Lansdale Junior Chamber of Commerce Womens Club.
One afternoon last winter, Salandria addressed the Omega Club, a small group of conservative lawyers that meets regularly at the Adelphia Hotel, in downtown Philadelphia, for lunch. The meeting was held in a private dining room off the hotels coffee shop, and about fifteen members were present. They were having orange sherbet and coffee and discussing the problem of Communist infiltration in the Catholic colleges of the Philadelphia area when Salandria arrived. He was immediately introduced by the chairman, who said, The main point I want to bring out is that hes highly respected for his ability and everyone regards him as a man of great integrity.
Salandria made a few opening comments about being happy to return to Omega - it had been the first organization to ask him to speak after he had first published his doubts in the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer, the citys law journal - and about having published articles in magazines that the members had assured him were Communist fronts. But I have developed a healthy respect for the conservative mind in the United States, he said. My hope for breaking this case comes not from the left wing and not from the liberals and not from the government but from independent Americans who are steeped in a heritage that bespeaks of a concern about governmental power - excessive governmental power.
Amen, somebody said.
Salandria explained that he had made a specialty of the shots, trajectories, and wounds of the assassination, and he launched into a straightforward account of the evidence. He spoke precisely of angles of descent, the damage caused by each bullet, and the condition of the bullets. At one point he drew out a large chart that had an outline of the Presidents body as seen in Zapruder Frame 316 superimposed on an enlargement of Zapruder Frame 313 - a demonstration of his contention that the Presidents body snapped back and to the left when hit by the fatal bullet - and at another point he took off his jacket so he could better demonstrate the spot at which the first bullet was said to have entered the Presidents back. The lawyers were attentive. Occasionally, they nodded their understanding of what Salandria was talking about. When Salandria had finished his speech and called for questions, a man asked why J. Edgar Hoover had stated his belief in the Commissions findings if any doubt existed, and Salandria quoted a number of documents to demonstrate that the FBI itself had contradicted the Report. There were no other questions that reflected any doubt about Salandrias contention that the Commissions version of the assassination was patently wrong. When Salandria said, I urge upon you that our President was, in fact, killed by a team of skilled professional assassins, two or three men nodded and one man down the table whispered, Communists. The presence of a conspiracy seemed to be taken for granted; the questions were about who was in the conspiracy. There was strong sentiment for suspecting the Communists - one man noted that the Worker had suggested a commission headed by Warren before one was actually announced, and another asked Salandria if there were any known Communists on the Commission - but, for a while, nobody seemed to object to Salandrias theory that the conspirators were neither left nor right but elements whose purpose was to perpetuate the Cold War when Kennedy was trying to arrive at an accommodation. Reading some items from the Times of that morning about Vietnam, Salandria attempted to show that the deep American involvement in the war made no sense economically, politically, legally, or morally - no sense, unless you trace it back to the assassination. The lawyers seemed to accept that theory rather calmly. Then, suddenly, one man, almost shouting, said, This thing boils down to a supposed attempt to frame the right-wing military! This is the international socialist propaganda line that hasnt changed in over a hundred years! Everybody seemed to shout at once, but after Salandria denied the charge, and answered one or two more questions about why he did not think the Communists were involved, the subject seemed forgotten. The Omega members listened respectfully as Salandria answered polite questions about how the Commission worked and why the conspirators chose the Dallas motorcade as a time to murder the President. When the chairman got up to close the meeting, Salandria received enthusiastic applause, and several members stayed around to compliment him further.
I'm afraid we were misled. All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one - not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official - no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their Government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what has happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.
The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but to repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face that fact - and not waste any more time microanalyzing the evidence. That's exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They'll keep you very, very busy and, eventually, they'll wear you down.
I wrote them (essays on the assassination), not to demonstrate any skills I had as a writer or as a scholar, since my writings clearly show my limitations as such. Rather, I wrote these pieces to explain how easy it was to come to the truth of how and why our national security state killed President Kennedy in order to perpetuate the Cold War...
But the truth was easily ascertainable. I feel that my work on the assassination is am accomplishment which required little intelligence, minimal analytic ability and no special talents. Rather it reflected a willingness to bear witness to the truth irrespective of the consequences. In my responsibility to adhering to the truth as I saw it, I have been and will continue to be, oblivious to all the consequences of its expression.
Let us examine the recent Post article forwarded to me "courtesy" of Lardner entitled: "Study Backs Theory of 'Grassy Knoll' New Report Says Second Gunman Fired at Kennedy." In this article Lardner recounts how D.B. Thomas, a British government scientist, examined the tape of a police dictabelt which had recorded the sounds in Dealey Plaza when the fusillade felled President John F. Kennedy. Thomas, the article tells us, believes that the shot from the knoll killed the president.
In his article Lardner quotes G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel to the House Assassinations Committee, who headed the investigation, as stating that Thomas' work was an "honest, careful scientific examination that's beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Lardner adds that James Barger, Mark Weiss, and Eric Aschkneasy, House Committee experts, "have always held firm to their findings of a shot from the knoll."
What is the import of Lardner's article? It tells us that the House Assassination Committee's investigation of the Kennedy killing had arrived at scientific proof of a conspiracy. Lardner quotes Blakey as stating, "It shows that we made mistakes, too, but minor mistakes."
In the article, Lardner tells us that one of those House Committee "minor mistakes" was the conclusion that the shot from the picket fence had missed the President. Lardner tells us that the National Academy of Sciences, which after the House Committee had closed down had been assigned to do studies of the acoustic evidence, mistakenly disputed the evidence of a fourth shot.
What is the reason for Blakey calling the House Committee's failure to find that the shot from the picket fence had struck the President a "minor mistake"? The reason is that if the House Committee made a mistake in this regard, then the Warren Commission could also have "mistakenly" gotten this wrong. The plain fact is that neither governmental body made a mistake in that regard. In reality both the Warren Commission and the House Assassination Committee were government bodies which consciously produced fraudulent reports aimed at covering up the fact that the existence of the conspiracy was completely obvious. Both bodies were in this and many other regards plainly fraudulent in the manner in which they interpreted their own evidence, a manner which was not only irrational but was also fraudulent.
The anthology of my work on the Kennedy assassination includes a series of articles, which make clear that a microanalysis of the Warren Commission's own evidence compels the conclusion that a shot had struck Kennedy from the right front. (False Mystery, An Anthology of Essays on the Assassination of JFK, Vincent J. Salandria, self-published, available at the Last Hurrah Bookshop, 937 Memorial Avenue, Williamsport, Pa. 17701, (570) 321-1150 (phone/Fax)) There were no mistakes made by our governmental investigating bodies. There was no mystery. There was just fraud designed to conceal the fact that President Kennedy was killed by government agents acting on orders from the center of our warfare state.
With respect to the integrity of the House Committee, there was none. My friend Gaeton Fonzi who served on that Committee as a field investigator demonstrates this. He revealed its fraudulent nature in his fine book, The Last Investigation, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993. Indeed, Fonzi reveals in this book how Blakey played a crucial role in undoing the work of the staff members of the Committee who were actually attempting to carry out an honest investigation.
So, the Lardner article seeks to depict Blakey as a truth hunter employing a scientifically correct interpretation on the microanalytic details of how Kennedy was killed. Lardner describes Blakey as successfully dispelling the supposedly legitimate mysteries which surrounded the killing of Kennedy. Lardner depicts Blakey, a representative of our government, as concluding that there was scientific proof that JFK was killed by a conspiracy.
Lardner tries to convey to the reader that the government and its operatives are now willing to confront the troubled past. Lardner would have us believe that because of its passion for truth our "democratic" government has honestly struggled to achieve historical precision on the Kennedy assassination. Lardner proudly proclaims that our government and its operatives are now willing to reveal and to confess having made honest mistakes, albeit minor, in interpreting data that remained mysterious until addressed with a scientific precision not previously available to our truth-seeking government.
I submit that Lardner's piece is false and is an opening salvo to a new series of lies by the U.S. government in its ongoing effort to obscure the Cold War nature of the President's assassination...
It is false when Lardner labors to paint for us a picture of the mainstream media reporting on a democratic government's honest efforts over decades to pursue truth regarding the Kennedy killing. It is false with respect to failing to confront the fact that the national security state killed Kennedy. It is false in seeking to conceal the aid that the mainstream media offered our warfare state in concealing the true nature of the Kennedy assassination. It is false when it seeks to verify the US House Committee's work as aimed at attaining historical truth.
This is a stupid idea with no basis in fact whatsoever - blaming Robert Kennedy for the assassination of President Kennedy - but it has been espoused by a raft of not only insignificant commentators over the years, beginning with Drew Pearson in 1967, and most recently by Ronald Steel, an award-winning historian, in his recent book (In Love With Night The American Romance with Robert Kennedy).
It is important to understand not only that this thesis is patently false, but also to understand how it serves the ongoing general propaganda mission of covering up the true nature of both assassinations. This mission, tragically, considering the loss of integrity involved, has been embraced and performed assiduously by virtually the whole of the mass media and academia, including the latter's so-called "progressive" elements, for almost four decades.
The truth is that Robert was a victim of the same powers that killed his brother, as polls have always told us most Americans agree, in stark contrast to their so-called "opinion leaders." In fact he was doubly victimized, by also being drawn, however reluctantly, into cooperating with the cover-up of the truth about JFK's assassination in the hope of attaining the presidency himself, until this vain hope precipitated his own assassination in 1968, on the very night he won the California primary and was virtually assured of becoming the Democratic presidential candidate in that mid-Vietnam-war year.
The "RFK did it" idea was first offered up by Drew Pearson in his regular column in the Washington Post on March 3, 1967. Castro, Pearson speculated, had become aware of the plot to kill him and decided to retaliate by having President Kennedy killed. Add this to the assumption (also false) that RFK was personally behind the CIA's attempts to assassinate Fidel, and presto, we have Pearson's conclusion that not only was RFK ultimately responsible for his brother's murder (by Castro), but was also "plagued by the terrible thought that he had helped put into motion terrible forces that indirectly may have brought about his brothers martyrdom."
All of this was based on hearsay "evidence" provided by an FBI spy named Edward Morgan, whose sources admittedly were not directly involved in the assassination and whom he refused to identify - in other words, pure gossip.
Ronald Steel continues this fantasy, speaking of "powerful" and even "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" that RFK, "through Operation Mongoose, had made the removal of Castro his personal responsibility and highest priority" and made "incessant demands of the CIA and the Mongoose planners to 'get Castro.'" This evidence consists exclusively of prattle directly attributable to CIA and Pentagon sources, which can hardly be considered reliable sources in this matter.
For example, Steel cites a statement in 1975 by then secretary of state Henry Kissinger to President Gerald Ford that Richard Helms of the CIA had informed him that "Robert Kennedy personally managed the operations on the assassination of Castro." This triple hearsay, originating from the mouth of a convicted liar (Helms lied under oath to a Senate committee to cover up CIA improprieties) is what Steel calls "overwhelming circumstantial evidence."
As a further example of Steel's scholarship, he swallows whole the Warren Report's contention that Oswald was a pro-Castro agent, failing even to mention the work of Philip H. Melanson, who did in fact present overwhelming evidence eleven years ago to prove that Oswald was not an agent of Castro but of the CIA. Nor should we be surprised that Steel ignores the statement of Castro himself, made the day after the assassination, in which he said that Oswald "was never Secretary or Chairman of any Fair Play for Cuba Committee in any city of the United States" and that President Kennedys assassination was the work of some elements who disagreed with his international policy; that is to say, with his nuclear treaty, with his policy with respect to Cuba And what happened yesterday can only benefit those ultra-rightist and ultra-reactionary sectors, among which President Kennedy cannot be included." (cf. E. M. Schotz, History Will Not Absolve Us, Appendix II, pp. 51-86).
But not unexpectedly, Steel, like the various post-Warren Commission government committees that "investigated" the assassination, hedges his bets. If it wasn't Castro, it was the Mafia.
The problem with the Mafia theory is logic. If the Mafia were powerful enough to kill the president and maintain the cover-up ever since, including controlling or deluding the Warren Commission, the Dallas police, the FBI, the CIA, and the entirety of the American press and academia, to this day, then there is no discernible distinction between the Mafia and the United States Government. It is just a question of terminology. I will follow the traditional practice, however, and call the government the government.
A second hedge, abundant in the assassination literature, is that if it wasn't Oswald, Castro, or the Mafia, it was "rogue" CIA agents. Steel is eager to embrace this foolish idea as well. "Perhaps," says Steel, "individuals linked to the CIA who feared after the missile crisis of 1962 that the Kennedys were not pushing hard enough against Castro" were behind the assassination.
This "rogue" agent theory has been popularized most successfully by John Newman, who arose full-blown from the depths of a career in Army intelligence and the National Security Agency in 1992 to become the media darling of assassination research. First Newman contended that JFK had intended to pull out of Vietnam - a quite credible thesis - and, three years later, that Oswald was in fact a CIA agent (as Melanson had already proved three years earlier), but did not act on behalf of the CIA . In other words, even though Oswald was an agent, the CIA as an institution remains blameless. I have taken Newman to task elsewhere for the absurdity and dishonesty of this position.
The historical record could not be clearer. At the very time that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he was actively exploring the normalization of relations with Castro. In fact, Castro was a willing and most interested initiator of and participant in a peace-feeler project. Common sense dictates that we recognize that a president intent on normalizing relations with a foreign country would not be simultaneously trying to assassinate its head of state.
The US Department of States Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, VOLUME XII, Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath tells us about the Kennedy-Khrushchev-Castro relationships which evolved as a consequence of the 1962 Missile Crisis. These documents make it clear that at the time of President Kennedys assassination Fidel Castro had much to lose and nothing to gain by JFKs death, and also that Robert Kennedy had no reason to goad the CIA into killing Castro. The details of meetings between William Attwood, the US emissary acting on the direct orders of President Kennedy, and Castro's representatives are detailed here, and are also re-confirmed by Attwood in his July 10, 1975, testimony to the Church Committee (Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities).
The rapprochement with Castro had become a "more doubtful issue," and Attwood's efforts had lost much of their meaning since "Lee Oswald has been heralded as a pro-Castro type. Five days after the assassination, Johnson asked CIA director John McCone about the effectiveness of the "economic denial" program with Cuba and "how we planned to dispose of Castro." McCone's answer was that Cuba was exporting arms to Venezuela and that the US should get the OAS to agree to "economic denial through blockade and even to possible invasion" of Cuba.
New courses of action were proposed to make life difficult for Castro, including precipitating a break in economic relations between Cuba and the rest of Latin America, "unleashing the exiles," and generally intensifying covert operations. On December 13, 1963, the Standing Group of the National Security Council authorized the CIA to develop the capacity to conduct air attacks against selective Cuban targets by autonomous exile groups, and endorse the intensification of these raids.
It is clear, then, that immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, normalization efforts were snuffed out and replaced by a strategy involving an embargo (which continues to this day), blockade, and possibly invasion.
There are thus no grounds whatever, either in common sense or in the historical record, for the Pearson-Steel thesis. On the contrary, when Attwood was by the Church Committee in 1975 whether he had "heard any conversation by any Cuban about any possible past retaliation or future retaliation" for the attempts on Castros life, he replied that he had "never heard anything like that down there."
Steel's answer to this question is that to challenge the Warren Report would have made public "the CIAs efforts to kill Castro and use the Mafia as hired killers," revelations that "would have strongly implicated both the Kennedys in these illegal activities" and would also have revealed that the president had "shared a mistress with a Mafia capo."
First of all, this explanation falls on its face because Robert Kennedy did challenge the Warren Report, privately. In One Hell of a Gamble, Aleklsandr Fursenko and Timothy Nafti, inform us that Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy sent William Walton, a close friend of President Kennedy, to Moscow on November 29, 1963 to deliver their analysis of the assassination. Walton told the Soviets that the Kennedys believed the killing of President Kennedy was "the result of a conspiracy." Four days earlier, in fact, the Soviets had come to their own conclusion that Kennedy had been killed by "extremely right-wing elements that did not like his policies, especially his policy toward Cuba." "By the end of December (1963) KGB analysts had concluded that an anti-Soviet Coup detat had occurred."
Publicly, Robert remained silent about the true nature of the killing of his brother because he deferred to the need to maintain domestic tranquility in the face of a high-level conspiracy far more powerful than the Kennedy family. Only the highest levels of the national security apparatus could have accomplished the following:
Using Oswald, a CIA operative, as a patsy.
Killing Oswald while he was in custody.
Spreading a broad pattern of false clues pointing to the Soviets and Cuba as suspects, yet opting for a lone assassin theory.
Ignoring the overwhelming and immediately available eyewitness and other solid forensic evidence in Dealey Plaza.
Ignoring the fact that persons were impersonating Secret Service Agents in Dealey Plaza where no Secret Service Agent had been assigned.
Ignoring the position of the holes in President Kennedys coat and shirt, which precluded an exit wound in the neck.
Ignoring the Parkland Hospital doctors opinion that the neck wound was an entry wound and that the wound in the back of the head was a massive exit wound.
Allowing the military officers present at the autopsy to prevent the doctors from tracing the neck and back wounds of the President so as to determine their trajectory.
Allowing one of the autopsy doctors, Commander James Humes, to burn his initial notes.
Allowing Allen Dulles, the Director of the CIA who had been fired by President Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs debacle, to be appointed to the Warren Commission.
Accepting as unchallenged evidence (Warren Commission Exhibit 399) an essentially pristine bullet that after flying in several directions through two bodies (Kennedy's and Connally's) and shattering several bones, left more metal in Connally's body than is missing from the bullet.
Not allowing the Warren Commissioners to examine the x-rays and photographs of the Presidents autopsy.
Cleaning out the presidential limousine immediately after the execution, and then unlawfully shipping it out of Dallas, the jurisdiction of the crime, to be stripped and refitted, thereby destroying the evidence of the bullet impacts upon the vehicle.
Allowing Life Magazine to withhold the eight millimeter film of Abraham Zapruder which showed, inter alia, that following the impact of a bullet on Kennedys head his body was propelled leftward and backward onto the rear seat of the limousine, contradicting the Warren Report's contention that the bullet was fired by Oswald from the rear.
Allowing Life Magazine to then lie about the content of the film, and claim that Kennedy had turned completely around to receive a frontal hit from the rear.
Allowing Life Magazine to change a single issue of October 2, 1964 twice in order to conceal the visual documentation of a head shot from the right front.
Deleting from the Warren Commission Exhibits the testimony of Jacqueline Kennedy regarding the wounds of the President.
Allowing Deputy Attorney General Nicholas de Katzenbach send memoranda dating from November 25, 1963 to December 9, 1963 to Chief Justice Earl Warren and others stating that "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."
The writing is on the wall - but it is obviously not on the walls of newspaper or university offices. This is the only truth to be gleaned from Steel's book.
The writings of Vincent J Salandria on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are historic, foundational, and essential to any serious scholar interested in understanding the real dynamics of the Kennedy murder and its place as a terrible and pivotal moment of the American Century. In his 1967 book Six Seconds in Dallas, Josiah Thompson notes that what he terms the “second generation” of assassination researchers—including Mark Lane, Edward J. Epstein, Harold Weisberg, Raymond Marcus, Léo Sauvage, Richard Popkin—owe “a deep debt to Salandria’s pioneering and largely unsung research.” Thompson is accurate, since Salandria is in the front rank of Warren Commission critics, and the prescience of his analysis is an instruction to all interested people.
On November 22, 1963, the day of the assassination, Salandria watched the unfolding narrative on television with his then brother-in-law, the late Harold Feldman (himself a important scholar of this case and the author of the monograph “Fifty-One Witnesses: The Grassy Knoll”). Many friends of Salandria recount his responses to that day. Salandria noted at the first moments of this crime that it reeked of a governmental coup, and that the confirmation of his suspicion would be the murder of the alleged suspect while in custody. He observed that from the first hours of the case, the pronouncements of the government, as carried by the major media, contained a consciousness of guilt at the center of state power. At no time did the government entertain seriously the possibility of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, even as local authorities in Dallas and the mainstream media offered a steady stream of evidence pointing to conspiracy (witnesses and physicians saying Kennedy was shot from two directions; witnesses running to the grassy knoll in front of the motorcade as well as into buildings behind the motorcade; more than one rifle found; various suspects detained; gun smoke smelled at ground level; a bystander wounded). Although many of these reports could have been in error, Salandria noted that the federal authorities, if honest, would have pursued these reports rather than shut down their options and proclaim the guilt of one man, a warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald.
Oswald’s guilt was indeed immediately proclaimed, and rarely with the qualifier “alleged.” Oswald’s supposed leftist political affiliations were loudly trumpeted as a means of enhancing the aura of guilt around a man declared the murderer—and the only murderer—even before he was officially charged with the crime. It should be noted that the labeling by the government of Oswald as a leftist—and hence a homicidal madman—effectively stilled the dissent of and terrified much of the American progressive community, particularly with the publication of the Warren Report. The voice of Vincent Salandria, who never wavered from progressive values, was not so stilled.
On Nov. 2, 1964, Salandria published an article in The Legal Intelligencer, the oldest law publication in the United States. The piece, reproduced herein, is the first sustained criticism of the Warren Commission’s conclusions on the forensic evidence in the assassination. It represents a courageous and articulate dissent from within the American legal profession that, sadly, has rarely been replicated. To those who today argue that the government’s initial response to the assassination flowed from a concern merely to protect national security, Salandria’s article, written in 1964, is a crucial response. It shows that the authorities were utterly disingenuous about the smallest detail of the forensic evidence of the crime, and none of the official conduct augured well for confidence in the government’s motivations, then or now, in telling us about the assassination.
The circumstances of this article’s publication are as remarkable and historic as its content. The Philadelphia Bar Association had just finished celebrating the work for the Warren Commission of Arlen Specter, a native son who would soon be elected the city’s district attorney. Salandria, a practicing lawyer in Philadelphia, was unimpressed by his colleague’s new status in the profession. Theodore Voorhees, then Chancellor of the Bar, felt that Salandria’s dissent was too important for the Intelligencer to ignore, despite the paper’s positive appraisal both of the Warren Report and the service provided to the Warren Commission by its legal staff.
Salandria’s article, like his subsequent essays for the New Left journal Liberation [published in January and March 1965], contains a discourse now very familiar to assassination researchers, although it is doubtful if many know where the discourse originated. With a painstaking, methodical approach, Salandria showed how the government’s own evidence completely undermined its conclusions. His argument was bolstered many times over in his Liberation pieces, written after the Commission had issued its twenty-six evidentiary and hearings volumes. While critics have repeated ad nauseam the particulars of Salandria’s argument (the conflicting medical exhibits; the timing of the shots; the impossible trajectories; the ammunition; the ignoring of testimony), few, it seems to me, have apprehended Salandria’s perspective and sensibility as he studied these data.
Throughout his analysis of the Warren Commission evidence, Salandria posed to himself and to his reader questions that were at their heart philosophical and moral as well as political. He noted that the authorities, from the beginning, asked us to suspend not only the rule of law and basic physical laws, but also laws of logic and reason. We were asked by the Warren Commission to accept the Orwellian notion that two plus two equals five. We were asked to accept as sensible and professional conduct under our system of law the Chief Justice and his staff accepting into evidence crude anatomical sketches of President Kennedy’s wounds, drawn by a Navy corpsman at the direction of his superior, rather than primary autopsy data. Salandria asked himself and his readers if one could accept, as reasonable professional conduct of adult men, the Bethesda military doctors who performed Kennedy’s autopsy not immediately contacting the medical personnel in Dallas who first treated him, but instead contacting these personnel only as an afterthought the morning after the autopsy was completed and the body sent on for burial. These questions are still pertinent at the end of the twentieth century, since the federal government has yet to provide to the American public a clear, firmly supported account of how many times President Kennedy was shot, from which direction(s), and on which parts of his body he was wounded. Each time an accounting of the wounds is offered (the Clark Panel in 1968; the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979; the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992), the narrative changes, usually to accommodate to some degree the skepticism of the public.
As Salandria continued his research into the assassination, he observed that the media’s representations of the crime shifted regularly to meet the needs of the authorities in possession of the evidence. In this recognition, Salandria was especially prescient. Today, such writers as Jerry Policoff, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, and many others have proven that ours is hardly an independent media, but rather a set of (dis)information organs, constructed as corporations, wholly answerable to state and private power. This was never more evident than in Salandria’s early scrutiny of the media’s coverage of the Kennedy assassination.
Less than two weeks after the assassination, Life magazine published a Memorial Issue containing an article that attempted to put to rest “nagging rumors” about the assassination. The piece informed us that while President Kennedy was indeed shot in the throat from the front, this could be explained by examination of an 8mm film taken by a bystander that was at the moment of publication Life’s exclusive property (the famous Zapruder film). The author of the essay informed us that the film shows Kennedy turning far around, exposing thereby his throat to Oswald’s sniper’s lair six stories above the presidential motorcade. It would be ten years before the general public would learn that no such turn took place as it finally saw the Zapruder film on national television. Few would know the history of media mendacity on this issue, but Salandria was keeping careful notes.
Life’s uncritical support of the Warren Commission at times bordered on the hysterical. When the Warren Report was issued in the fall of 1964, Life was so enamored of it that the magazine published not one but three versions of a single issue. The issue contained an account of the Warren findings written not by a Life journalist, but by Gerald Ford, the future President who served (at the suggestion of his friend Richard Nixon) on the Commission. Salandria remarked that it was highly unusual, in an era before computer-based publishing, for a magazine to publish three versions of a single issue. The reason for this strange enterprise became clear as Salandria scanned the three versions. Each text contained refinements that bolstered the Commission’s lone-nut thesis, and attempted to clear up (but in the process only complicated) the contradictions related to a broad range of subjects—from the direction of the President’s body under the impact of the fatal shot to the timing of the Tippit shooting to the internal dissent on the Warren Commission. Salandria wrote to Life editor Ed Kern about the peculiar phenomenon of three versions of the same issue. Kern replied that indeed such an occurrence was highly unusual—and very costly—but could not figure out who authorized the changes nor how it was done.
In 1967-69 Salandria supported the efforts of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in reopening the assassination probe. This work is not represented here, but is mentioned in other locations, including Garrison’s A Heritage of Stone and On the Trail of the Assassins. Suffice it to say that Salandria’s contribution to Garrison’s effort was significant; Garrison sent an early printing of On the Trail of the Assassins to Salandria with the inscription: “To my intellectual mentor and friend.” Garrison’s discussion of “models of explanation” in A Heritage of Stone owes much to Salandria, whose examination of the elementary data convinced Garrison that he was looking not at a plot of right-wing fringe groups, but a coup at the center of the American power structure.
In the early 1970s, Salandria refined his model of explanation of the assassination in a speech before the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The speech was published in the unlikely venue Computers and Automation, a Boston-based science journal created by Edmund Berkeley and Richard Sprague, two computer systems analysts committed to the truth of the assassination and issues of social justice. In this transitional article, reprinted here, Salandria parted company with the school of assassination research—a school he helped to found—focused on Dealey Plaza, in order to examine the why of the assassination and its implications for America. At this stage of his work he determined that the continued ransacking of the Dealey Plaza microdata was a way of prolonging a false debate and instilling a pointless doubt and doublethink in the public, a theme that has been dominant in Salandria’s work to this day.
For Salandria, the endless probing of the evidentiary minutiae proceeds from the assumption that the case for conspiracy isn’t proven (and perhaps can never be proven), and that we should give the authorities the benefit of the doubt as we continue obsessional and debilitating detective work. For Salandria this reasoning, which invites the authorities to continue in their prevarication, is absurd and intellectually dishonest, since a consciousness of guilt was manifest in state power from the moment the assassination occurred. The micro-fixated critical orientation to this case forestalls an understanding of the assassination as a political act requiring mass mobilization, and an analysis of the murder attentive to its political-economic context.
In the mid-70s, Salandria developed these concerns further with the assistance of his friend, Professor Thomas Katen. In a piece called “The Design of the Warren Report, to Fall to Pieces,” perhaps Salandria’s most controversial article, he posited something many critics—including Sylvia Meagher and Harold Weisberg—had long intuited about the Warren Report. To read the Report is to disbelieve it. The reasoning of the Report is absurd, yet unreasonable or irrational men didn’t write it. Salandria argued that the Report was designed to appear incredible, and thereby signal to the people of America that faith in constituency-based government was obsolete, as state power and the capitalist system it represents consolidated their authority over America. Salandria scholars (there are more than a few) debate this piece, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to judge the intent of the Warren Report authors to the level of Salandria’s assertions. Intentionality is indeed a tough call, but it is useful to consider the effect of the Warren Report alongside Salandria’s argument with the hindsight of thirty-six years.
Today, the Kennedy assassination has entered cyberspace and the domain of pop culture. JFK assassination experts are everywhere, and although most think a conspiracy was “likely,” few seem able or interested in seeing how it was precipitated by basic assumptions of our government and economic system. Even fewer people seem interested in the crime’s relationship to subsequent history and our current moment as the case is consigned to the culture of postmodernity and The X Files. Looking at the current situation, we might reflect on Salandria’s most explosive contentions in “The Design of the Warren Report,” and an earlier piece, “The Promotion of Domestic Discord.” Is much of our supposedly adversarial culture, in large part produced by a culture industry, a means of coopting and diluting genuinely adversarial energies? The Huxleyan vision of the future Salandria spoke of in “The Design of the Warren Report” seems too close for comfort as wars become video games, and as we seek solace from the VCR and prescription tranquilizers.
The essay entitled “A False Mystery Concealing State Crimes” is Salandria’s speech before the Coalition on Political Assassination’s 1998 conference, and is a summary statement of his work. It exhorts the reader not to participate in the false, debilitating debate that refuses to say President Kennedy was the victim of a state-sanctioned coup. Salandria asks that we use this murder as an instruction for our times, a lesson concerning the bankruptcy of our way of life, as we engage in the difficult task of building a more just society. The speech, which took Salandria nearly two hours to deliver at COPA, received a prolonged standing ovation, heartening him greatly after a long period of believing assassination research had become an intellectual hobby horse and taken a disastrously pointless turn. The next evening, COPA gave Salandria a long-overdue lifetime achievement award.
Vincent Salandria has never wanted a public profile, and consistently rejected offers to write a book. Occasionally, he has accepted invitations from the Philadelphia media to speak on the subject of the assassination. He has also accepted invitations from civic groups to debate Arlen Specter; Specter has always refused, claiming he has “already” debated Salandria (presumably because he once answered questions about Salandria’s work). A speech by Salandria, although rare, is always pregnant with import that either misses most of the audience or is treated with derision. In a 1967 lecture attended by author Joe McGinniss, Salandria stated that RFK would most likely be assassinated, and that LBJ would step down from office. McGinniss, a chronicler of the 60s and 70s, thought it “sad” that Salandria should believe such things.
In the past thirty-five years Salandria has, in pop psychology terms, “empowered” any number of people interested in the truth of the Kennedy murder. A few people who have benefited from his thought: Harold Feldman, Gaeton Fonzi, Ray Marcus, Jim Garrison, Sylvia Meagher, Jim DiEugenio, and incidentally myself. In the early 1990s, Salandria assembled a circle of correspondents who engage in a round-robin exchange concerning the Kennedy assassination, its legacy, and the shape of our current world. Among those who have participated in this very prolific circle are E. Martin Schotz, Michael Morrissey, Robert Dean, Fletcher Prouty, Steve Jones, Gaeton Fonzi, Barbara LaMonica, Jim Douglass, Dick Levy, Donald Gibson, William Pepper, Joan Mellen, Ben Schotz, and many others. I have been privileged to be in their number. In time, some of this correspondence may be offered for publication, an event that I think would be significant in enhancing public discussion of the JFK assassination. The thinking of this group has already found its way into Fonzi’s The Last Investigation and Schotz’s History Will Not Absolve Us. Both Fonzi and Schotz have been close friends to Salandria for over thirty years. Fonzi produced groundbreaking research for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Schotz, who speaks with Salandria almost every day, has been his intellectual gadfly, a contributor of such magnitude to our understanding of this case it is appropriate that this compendium includes his essay “The Waters of Knowledge,” also presented at the 1998 COPA meeting.
Schotz, a Boston psychiatrist, long ago suggested to Salandria that the public was encased in denial concerning the Kennedy assassination. Schotz observed that public discourse seemed to permit the notion that a conspiracy was “possible” or “likely.” A common statement on the subject is that one “feels” or “believes” that there was official misconduct and obfuscation in the crime. Like the addict or alcoholic unable to confront the seriousness of the disease, the American public would prefer not to know the truth and say it, but to remain locked in psychic and political paralysis rather than state outright that Kennedy was removed by official power, and thereby confront the monstrousness of our political-economic system. I have suggested to Schotz that he extend his penetrating insight a bit further, since to live in America, it seems to me, means to live in some state of denial, because a sensitive person could not live here, aware of the nation’s history, its murderous past, its cruel and inequitable present, without hiding in a carapace of denial. It is the hope of Schotz, Salandria, and this writer that we may all confront truth, shed denial, and build a better world.
I have many fond personal memories of Vince Salandria. I was still living in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 1973 when I screwed up the courage to drop a letter to this formidable, yet quiet, founder of the JFK assassination research community. My adolescent shyness was still obvious in those years, and I disliked imposing myself. My friend Robert Cutler, a flinty and outspoken Bostonian who did major work on the Dealey Plaza trajectory evidence, scoffed at my inhibition. He admonished me with the remark: “Do you know who he is?” I couldn’t muster a reply. “He’s the first damn researcher!” I wrote to Salandria, we had a brief exchange of letters, I invited him to lunch, he accepted.
At the time, I was completing my first graduate degree at Villanova University, and often took a train into center city Philadelphia before making a very long trek to Villanova in the Philadelphia “main line.” My stopover in the city would frequently be the occasion to meet Salandria at his office, or at his old address on Delancey Place. We would have lunch (he bristled if I offered to pay) and walk through town. Salandria would tell me about the case, his experiences, his concern for America. I often felt like the companion to M. Dupin in one of Poe’s detective stories. Suffice it to say that Salandria’s original and penetrating mind made a lasting impression. He fast became one of the few thinkers whose sense of the world stayed with me. I soon began to chide him for his self-effacing tendencies; he still refers to himself as “a poor Italian peasant.” He always knew he packed the gear, and my refusal to accept his modesty has fueled the humor in our relationship.
We appeared together once on the radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, Salandria’s alma mater, and undertook a couple of minor projects before my graduate education and career took me far away from Philadelphia. I began lecturing on the assassination in 1975, recounting to college groups, churches, libraries, and high schools my experience as a researcher, my brief work for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and my view of the case. I always brought up the name Salandria. In 1991, just prior to the release of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, I realized that it had been almost five years since I last spoke to Vince Salandria. Among other things for which I must thank Stone’s historic film is the prompt to get in touch again with a man who has been so transformational to my political and historical worldview. And I have benefited at least some, I think, from his enormous humanity and generosity.