CIA Document 1035-960 Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report
CIA Document #1035-960
RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report
1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy's assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder. Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report, (which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now had time to scan the Commission's published report and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books and articles criticizing the Commission's findings. In most cases the critics have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission's report, a public opinion poll recently indicated that 46% of the American public did not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved. Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse results.
2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. 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. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination.
Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material 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.
3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active [business] addresses are requested:
a. To discuss the publicity problem with [?] and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. 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.
b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] 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 passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (I) 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 Epstein's theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher [?] article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane's book is much less convincing that Epstein's and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)
4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:
a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider. The assassination is sometimes compared (e.g., by Joachim Joesten and Bertrand Russell) with the Dreyfus case; however, unlike that case, the attack on the Warren Commission have produced no new evidence, no new culprits have been convincingly identified, and there is no agreement among the critics. (A better parallel, though an imperfect one, might be with the Reichstag fire of 1933, which some competent historians (Fritz Tobias, AJ.P. Taylor, D.C. Watt) now believe was set by Vander Lubbe on his own initiative, without acting for either Nazis or Communists; the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Communists, but the latter have been more successful in convincing the world that the Nazis were to blame.)
b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent--and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence. A close examination of the Commission's records will usually show that the conflicting eyewitness accounts are quoted out of context, or were discarded by the Commission for good and sufficient reason.
c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc. Note that Robert Kennedy, Attorney General at the time and John F. Kennedy's brother, would be the last man to overlook or conceal any conspiracy. And as one reviewer pointed out, Congressman Gerald R. Ford would hardly have held his tongue for the sake of the Democratic administration, and Senator Russell would have had every political interest in exposing any misdeeds on the part of Chief Justice Warren. A conspirator moreover would hardly choose a location for a shooting where so much depended on conditions beyond his control: the route, the speed of the cars, the moving target, the risk that the assassin would be discovered. A group of wealthy conspirators could have arranged much more secure conditions.
d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other. Actually, the make-up of the Commission and its staff was an excellent safeguard against over-commitment to any one theory, or against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties.
e. Oswald would not have been any sensible person's choice for a co-conspirator. He was a "loner," mixed up, of questionable reliability and an unknown quantity to any professional intelligence service.
f. As to charges that the Commission's report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.
g. Such vague accusations as that "more than ten people have died mysteriously" can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses (the FBI interviewed far more people, conduction 25,000 interviews and re interviews), and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected. (When Penn Jones, one of the originators of the "ten mysterious deaths" line, appeared on television, it emerged that two of the deaths on his list were from heart attacks, one from cancer, one was from a head-on collision on a bridge, and one occurred when a driver drifted into a bridge abutment.)
5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission's Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other 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.
Gore Vidal claims 'Bush junta' complicit in 9/11
America's most controversial novelist calls for an investigation into whether the Bush administration deliberately allowed the terrorist attacks to happen
Sunday 27 October 2002
01.48 GMT First published on Sunday 27 October 2002 01.48 GMT
America's most controversial writer Gore Vidal has launched the most scathing attack to date on George W Bush's Presidency, calling for an investigation into the events of 9/11 to discover whether the Bush administration deliberately chose not to act on warnings of Al-Qaeda's plans. Vidal's highly controversial 7000 word polemic titled 'The Enemy Within' - published in the print edition of The Observer today - argues that what he calls a 'Bush junta' used the terrorist attacks as a pretext to enact a pre-existing agenda to invade Afghanistan and crack down on civil liberties at home.
Vidal writes: 'We still don't know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose. But it is fairly plain to many civil libertarians that 9/11 put paid not only to much of our fragile Bill of Rights but also to our once-envied system of government which had taken a mortal blow the previous year when the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5/4 time and replaced a popularly elected President with the oil and gas Bush-Cheney junta.'
Vidal argues that the real motive for the Afghanistan war was to control the gateway to Eurasia and Central Asia's energy riches. He quotes extensively from a 1997 analysis of the region by Zgibniew Brzezinski, formerly national security adviser to President Carter, in support of this theory. But, Vidal argues, US administrations, both Democrat and Republican, were aware that the American public would resist any war in Afghanistan without a truly massive and widely perceived external threat.
'Osama was chosen on aesthetic grounds to be the frightening logo for our long-contemplated invasion and conquest of Afghanistan ... [because] the administration is convinced that Americans are so simple-minded that they can deal with no scenario more complex than the venerable, lone, crazed killer (this time with zombie helpers) who does evil just for the fun of it 'cause he hates us because we're rich 'n free 'n he's not.' Vidal also attacks the American media's failure to discuss 11 September and its consequences: 'Apparently, "conspiracy stuff" is now shorthand for unspeakable truth.'
'It is an article of faith that there are no conspiracies in American life. Yet, a year or so ago, who would have thought that most of corporate America had been conspiring with accountants to cook their books since - well, at least the bright dawn of the era of Reagan and deregulation.'
At the heart of the essay are questions about the events of 9/11 itself and the two hours after the planes were hijacked. Vidal writes that 'astonished military experts cannot fathom why the government's "automatic standard order of procedure in the event of a hijacking" was not followed'.
These procedures, says Vidal, determine that fighter planes should automatically be sent aloft as soon as a plane has deviated from its flight plan. Presidential authority is not required until a plane is to be shot down. But, on 11 September, no decision to start launching planes was taken until 9.40am, eighty minutes after air controllers first knew that Flight 11 had been hijacked and fifty minutes after the first plane had struck the North Tower.
'By law, the fighters should have been up at around 8.15. If they had, all the hijacked planes might have been diverted and shot down.'
Vidal asks why Bush, as Commander-in-Chief, stayed in a Florida classroom as news of the attacks broke: 'The behaviour of President Bush on 11 September certainly gives rise to not unnatural suspicions.' He also attacks the 'nonchalance' of General Richard B Myers, acting Joint Chief of Staff, in failing to respond until the planes had crashed into the twin towers.
Asking whether these failures to act expeditiously were down to conspiracy, coincidence or error, Vidal notes that incompetence would usually lead to reprimands for those responsible, writing that 'It is interesting how often in our history, when disaster strikes, incompetence is considered a better alibi than .... Well, yes, there are worse things.'
Vidal draws comparisons with another 'day of infamy' in American history, writing that 'The truth about Pearl Harbour is obscured to this day. But it has been much studied. 11 September, it is plain, is never going to be investigated if Bush has anything to say about it.' He quotes CNN reports that Bush personally asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to limit Congressional investigation of the day itself, ostensibly on grounds of not diverting resources from the anti-terror campaign.
Vidal calls bin Laden an 'Islamic zealot' and 'evil doer' but argues that 'war' cannot be waged on the abstraction of 'terrorism'. He says that 'Every nation knows how - if it has the means and will - to protect itself from thugs of the sort that brought us 9/11 ... You put a price on their heads and hunt them down. In recent years, Italy has been doing that with the Sicilian Mafia; and no-one has suggested bombing Palermo.'
Vidal also highlights the role of American and Pakistani intelligence in creating the fundamentalist terrorist threat: 'Apparently, Pakistan did do it - or some of it' but with American support. "From 1979, the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA was launched in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ... the CIA covertly trained and sponsored these warriors.'
Vidal also quotes the highly respected defence journal Jane's Defence Weekly on how this support for Islamic fundamentalism continued after the emergence of bin Laden: 'In 1988, with US knowledge, bin Laden created Al-Qaeda (The Base); a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic terrorist cells spread across 26 or so countries. Washington turned a blind eye to Al-Qaeda.'
Vidal, 77, and internationally renowned for his award-winning novels and plays, has long been a ferocious, and often isolated, critic of the Bush administration at home and abroad. He now lives in Italy. In Vidal's most recent book, The Last Empire, he argued that 'Americans have no idea of the extent of their government's mischief ... the number of military strikes we have made unprovoked, against other countries, since 1947 is more than 250.'