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Assassination Without End : Gerald Posner takes issue with the review of his book "Case Closed," which says we all could have rested with the Warren Commission report

January 09, 1994

Jonathan Kwitny's review of my book "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK" (Book Review, Nov. 7) is filled with misrepresentations of both the record and my book.

It is curious that the Times selected Kwitny to review a book concluding that Oswald acted alone. He had already prejudged the assassination to be a Mafia conspiracy in his 1988 PBS special, and in the review, he charges that to espouse that the Warren Commission was right all along is the "looniest JFK assassination theory of all."

Kwitny reveals his bias in a number of ways.

1--Consider his attitude to the new technologies which have been applied to the Zapruder film, the so-called home movie of the assassination. These techniques help to resolve the precise questions of the number of shots fired at Dealey Plaza, the timing of the shots, and whether a single bullet inflicted seven of the wounds to President Kennedy and Governor Connally. This work, presented in "Case Closed," has been acknowledged in numerous reviews as a breakthrough on the case. Kwitny's entire discussion on the point is a sarcastic "Yeah." This is frivolous.

2--Kwitny is misleading through selectivity. He is upset that I do not credit the testimony of Edward Becker, who casually knew New Orleans godfather Carlos Marcello. Becker claimed that in 1962 Marcello confided to him some details of a plot to kill JFK. Kwitny says that he interviewed Becker and found his story "completely believable." He never informs the reader that the reason the House Select Committee on Assassinations rejected Becker's claim was because of his "questionable reputation for honesty and (he) may not be a credible source of information."

Moreover, the Committee concluded that "it is unlikely that an organized crime leader personally involved in an assassination plot would discuss it with anyone other than his closest lieutenants . . ." Becker claimed Marcello told him about the plot to kill JFK, at their first business meeting. The fact that Kwitny believes this discredited tale again underscores his strong prejudgment in the case.

3--Kwitny says that I am incorrect in charging that the House Select Committee on Assassinations was prepared to conclude that a lone assassin had killed JFK until a last-second flip-flop caused by the mistaken acoustical conclusion that a police dictabelt contained the sounds of four, not three, shots. Instead, Kwitny says the House Committee planned months earlier to determine there was a likely mob conspiracy in the assassination. He ignores the statement of Rep. Edgar, on page 495 of the Select Committee Report, that: "I agree with the Dec. 13, 1978 first draft of our final report which states . . . that the available scientific evidence is insufficient to find that there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Up to that moment in the life of the committee we were prepared to go to the American people with this conclusion." Based on its last-minute acoustical evidence, the Committee scuttled its own 600-page draft which concluded no conspiracy, and issued a nine-page summary saying there likely was one. The final report was not issued until the following year.

4--Kwitny charges that I "am most misleading in claiming that Ruby was an underworld nobody." He then proceeds to pass along statements from uncorroborated FBI intelligence files to the effect that Ruby was involved in narcotics trafficking and had ties to leading mobsters. Kwitny himself claims that Ruby was taken before the Kefauver investigation in 1950 (implying that he was a more prominent mobster than I indicate), yet that is based on the unverified claim of a single source, and there is no corroborating evidence that Ruby was ever before the committee.

None of this, in any event, is relevant to the issue. Ruby could have been the godfather of one of the largest Mafia families in America, and that has nothing to do with why he killed Oswald. Kwitny may want to debate the issue on the extent of Ruby's mob connections, but that does not prove a conspiracy.

5--Kwitny also distorts the record regarding Oswald's supposed ties to Carlos Marcello. He greatly overplays the role and influence of Oswald's uncle Dutz Murret, a local gambler. There is not a shred of credible evidence that indicates that Murret introduced his nephew to any mobster in New Orleans. Moreover, Kwitny relies on a photo of Ferrie and Oswald, when Oswald was a 15-year-old member of the Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans, to suggest that the two later had a relationship to crime boss Carlos Marcello. Even if the photo of Oswald and Ferrie is finally tested and proven not to be a fake (as two other Oswald-Ferrie photos from the Garrison investigation were unmasked as composites) there still is not an iota of credible evidence that show the two men had any connection some eight years later, in the summer of 1963.

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