Harold Weisberg

Harold Weisberg

Harold Weisberg, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, was born in 1914. After graduating from the University of Delaware, he wrote articles for the Wilmington Morning News and the Philadelphia Ledger.

Weisberg also worked as an investigator Robert M. La Follette (Jr) when he was a leading figure in the Progressive Party. During the Second World War he served in the Office of Strategic Services. Later he became a State Department intelligence analyst. He was also a successful poultry farmer in Montgomery County.

Weisberg became one of the leading experts on the killing of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. He collected in his home more than 250,000 government papers on the Kennedy assassination. His first book on the Kennedy assassination,Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report(1965), sold over 30,000 copies.

Other b books by Weisberg include Whitewash II: The FBI-Secret Service Cover Up (1966), Oswald in New Orleans: Case of Conspiracy with the C.I.A. (1967), Photographic Whitewash (1967), Frame-Up: The Martin Luther - James Earl Ray Case (1970), Post Mortem: JFK Assassination Cover Up (1975), Martin Luther King: The Assassination (1993), Selections from Whitewash (1993), Never Again! The Government Conspiracy in the JFK Assassination (1995) and Case Open: Unanswered JFK Assassination Questions (1996).

Although a conspiracy theorist, Weisberg was highly critical of Oliver Stone's film, JFK. He commented "To do a mishmash like this is out of love for the victim and respect for history? I think people who sell sex have more principle."

Harold Weisberg died at his home of kidney failure on Frederick on 21st February, 2002.

Primary Sources

(1) Harold Weisberg, Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report (1965)

Assassination is a political crime. Even in the rare, remote cases where the assassin had no comprehensible political objectives, the crimes had political consequences. Whether it is the head of a state or a lesser official, the assassination has immediate political effects. With the head of state murdered, the changes in the political structure and situation are more immediate and far-reaching. A policy change by the head of state has national and international implications. Even when his successor follows the same basic policies, there nonetheless are changes in the implementation of these policies. No two men work, think or act in exactly the same way.

Nations and people are reluctant to believe that any among them is capable of the horrible crime of assassination. It is less uncomfortable to believe the assassin was insane or at least unbalanced. Individually and nationally, thinking about assassinations turns toward the search for "explanations more acceptable than the obvious. No one wants to believe a political murder was committed for personal gain, or that any segment of society is capable of such a monstrous deed for selfish ends. Shocking and paralyzing as assassination itself is to decent people, the traumatic feeling that, somehow, the nation itself is guilty may be even more stunning.

(2) Harold Weisberg, Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report (1965)

The Commission was reconstructing the crime, ostensibly to find out what happened, not to prove that Oswald alone committed it. When the motorcade turned toward the Depository Building on Houston Street, for several hundred feet there was a completely unobstructed view of it from the sixth-floor window. The police photographs and the forgotten Secret Service reconstruction of 1963 also show this. There was not a twig between the window and the President. There were no curves in that street, no tricky shooting angles. If all the shots came from this window, and the assassin was as cool and collected as the Report represents, why did he not shoot at the easiest and by far the best target? Why did he wait until his target was so difficult that the country's best shots could not duplicate his feat?

(3) Harold Weisberg, Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report (1965)

There is in neither the Commission's Report nor in any of the 26 printed volumes of its hearings and exhibits any sign that the Commission considered this assassination as a political crime, an unvarying characteristic of all assassinations. Likewise, despite the great amount of space devoted to the subject of conspiracy, there is no sign of any real quest for evidence of conspiracy in the broad or political sense. Both the FBI and the Commission decided, as had the police before them, that Oswald was their legitimate prey. Nowhere in the Report is there any evidence that any other assassin or assassins were ever sought or considered. Can anything be logically concluded other than that nobody wanted to find a different assassin or any additional assassin?

Yet there were abundant and obvious indications of both suspicion of a conspiracy and of its existence. The Report was able to avoid them, a task made easier by the nature of the hearings. It was as successful in avoiding both the obvious indications and the even more obvious suspicions, some of which are dealt with in this book.

The superficial and immature manner in which the Report deals with the possibility of a conspiracy or of a different assassin is only one of the ways in which the Commission may have crippled itself. Despite references in both the Report and the press to the Commission's investigators, the fact is that, in the accepted sense, the Commission had no investigators of its own. It drew upon the men available in the Executive Branch, chiefly the FBI and Secret Service, who were not employees of the Commission and whose primary responsibilities were to those who did employ them.

While there is no suggestion that these agencies were in any way involved m the assassination, they were, nonetheless, subject to Commission criticism and they were, in fact, so criticized. In addition, the Secret Service was directly responsible for the President's welfare and safety, and he was killed while they were protecting him. Besides its normal duty of aiding the Secret Service, the FBI had Oswald under surveillance or investigation at the time the President was killed. He was what might be called an "active" case.

Therefore, both agencies and their employees had personal involvements in the investigation that amounted to conflicts of interest. On one hand was the need for a complete, impartial and exhaustive investigation regardless of where it led and what it showed. On the other, the reputations of the agencies and their employees could have been at stake, for any error, no matter how innocent, could have made the Dallas tragedy possible. This situation was unfair to the agencies, which did not create it, and could have burdened them with impermissible conflicts and temptations, no matter how unconsciously. Further, the Dallas representatives of these agencies had ties of friendship and sometimes long association with the local police and, when the investigation of the assassination was over, faced the need for continuing, day-to-day working associations with them. Contemporarily and historically, it would have been better if the Commission had had its own staff of investigators in the field and had restricted its use of the FBI and Secret Service to technical services.

(4) Harold Weisberg, Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report (1965)

The narrative continues with Mrs. Linnie Mae Randle, Frazier's sister with whom he lived, noticing Oswald approaching with a "heavy brown bag," in the Commission's words rather than Mrs. Randle's. "He gripped the bag in his right hand, near the top. 'It tapered like this as he hugged it in his hand. It was . . . more bulky toward the bottom than toward the top." If this seems like a novel or dangerous way to carry a rifle, especially with the metal portion not attached to the stock and more likely to punch a hole in paper, it did not seem so to the Commission. And if Oswald's "gripping" and "hugging" might be expected to leave marks of at least crumpling on the bag, the Commission did not so expect and the bag itself shows no markings of the shape of a rifle, assembled or disassembled. The creases where it was folded in four are still sharp and clear. After untold handling, examination and testing, these creases are strong enough to keep the bag from lying flat when extended to its full length...

Knowing Oswald's sleeve length and height, as the Commission did, measuring the length of a package he could have held in his grip without touching the ground was simple and provided an accurate means of approximating the length. Actually, it requires a tall man, which Oswald was not, or a man with abnormally short arms (we don't know his arm length), for a 28-inch package to even barely clear the ground. The Commission had a passion for reconstructions. All of them had unsatisfactory results and at best jeopardized the Commission's findings. Some disproved the Commission's theories. The minimum length of the disassembled rifle was 34.8 inches. The Report does not quote a package reconstruction...

The only suggestion of any connection between Oswald and the bag was through fingerprints. Because Oswald worked where the bag was reported to have been found, the presence of his fingerprints was totally meaningless. Sebastian F. Latona, supervisor of the FBI's Latent Fingerprint Section, developed a single fingerprint and a single palmprint he identified as Oswald's. More significantly, "No other identifiable prints were found on the bag".

After all the handling of the bag attributed to Oswald, first in making it, then in packing it, then taking it to Frazier's car, putting it down in the car, picking it up and carrying it toward if not into the building for two blocks, and then, at least by inference, through the building, and when removing and assembling a rifle Marina testified he kept oiled and cleaned, how is it to be explained that he left only two prints? The only thing as strange is that this bag was also handled by the police and was the only evidence they did not photograph, according to their testimonies, where found. Yet the freshest prints, those of the police, were not discovered.

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

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

(6) John Kelin, Praise from a Future Generation (2007)

Another book published during this period was The Second Oswald by Richard Popkin. It was a short book, only 174 pages including nine appendices, and first appeared in condensed form in the July 28, 1966, issue of The New York Review of Books.

Most of the critics had never heard of the author. "Who is Popkin?" Harold Weisberg asked Sylvia Meagher in August. Popkin was then the chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California in San Diego; he had previously published a book called The History of Skepticism from Erasynus to Descartes.

Ostensibly, Popkin's article was a review of Whitewash and Inquest. Popkin acknowledged that the former was the first critical study of the Commission's case based on a close analysis of the twenty-six volumes, but said its power was diminished by its noisy and tendentious tone. Inquest, on the other hand, was "a remarkably effective book" that explained how the Warren Commission's main objective was presenting a politically acceptable account of the assassination.

But the thrust of Popkin's article was a theory he felt explained the assassination based on the available evidence. The first-generation critics - and here Popkin meant not just Weisberg and Epstein, but Vince Salandria, Fred Cook, Sylvan Fox, and even Thomas Buchanan - did little more than raise questions that the Warren Commission had left unanswered. An alternative explanation was needed. As Allen Dulles had commented, if the critics had found another assassin, "let them name names and produce their evidence."

The solution offered by Professor Popkin was what he called the "second Oswald" - a scenario derived from the official evidence suggesting that someone might have been impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald in the weeks and months before the assassination. The twenty-six volumes, Popkin wrote, contained numerous reliable reports placing Oswald in one location when equally reliable reports placed him elsewhere at the same time. Toward what end? "Critics have brought up the second Oswald as an insufficiently explored phenomenon that might throw light on the case.

One of those critics was Harold Weisberg, who during the summer of 1966 was beginning to feel more optimistic about his work. Whitewash was about to be serialized in a Spanish newspaper and was selling well enough for him to have another five thousand copies printed. He also felt the attitude of the American press was beginning to change. He was being called more often to make speeches and to appear on radio and TV.

When Weisberg read Popkin's article, he concluded Popkin had stolen his work. An entire chapter in Whitewash was devoted to what Weisberg called the "false Oswald," which he said proved there had been a conspiracy. Popkin's plagiarism was so obvious, Weisberg told Sylvia Meagher, that even her old associate Curtis Crawford had mentioned it to him.

Meagher thought the allegation was absurd. "I am amazed at the suggestion that any plagiarism was involved," she told Harold. "What do you refer to? I am very careful always to take into consideration parallel discovery and reasoning, which is widespread among critics of the WR and almost inevitable."

Weisberg declined to elaborate. But this was not the first time he had lashed out at other critics, and it was a cause of some concern for Sylvia; she was beginning to think Weisberg suffered from a persecution complex. The previous spring Weisberg had clashed with Vince Salandria after concluding Salandria could have placed a review of Whitewash, but did not, in Liberation. He had also been angry with M.S. Arnoni, who had dismissed Whitewash as having nothing new. "You are much too conceited about your book," Arnoni told him. Weisberg challenged this, but Arnoni would not be drawn into a debate.