Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scott Aaronson: In Over His Head on JFK Assassination (Part Two - Rebutting His 20 Reasons for 'Oswald Dunnit')

I now examine Scott Aaronson's "20 Reasons" to assert Lee Oswald was the lone gunman in the JFK assassination, based on what he calls "general principles" but which I call out as slacker principles: do as little as possible- avoid any details, attend to the worst possible "investigators" (Gerald Posner), and in general let ignorance trump facts at every turn.  Basically, Aaronson brings to bear a smug laziness that he'd never use if he wanted to publish a paper, say in the Physical Review (one of its fine journals).  He does this because he treats JFK assassination research akin to a kiddie hobby or pastime.

1.   Conspiracy theorizing represents a known bug in the human nervous system. Given that, I think our prior should be overwhelmingly against anything that even looks like a conspiracy theory".

This is not a reason but an assertion, that needs to be proven, demonstrated. Aaronson really ought to know better than to trot such bollocks out for public consumption, as if he's even an expert in the human nervous system.  Where has this been published? (He puts out a link to a cartoon -as if any intelligent person would accept that)  In what peer-reviewed journal of neurobiology?  Further, the fact this is psycho-babble is patently clear by the fact he puts all possible conspiracy  examples under the same umbrella - from faked lunar landings to Joe Klein's example (in the recent TIME - see Part I) of the feds buying up ammo to raise the prices so gun owners can't afford it - to the JFK assassination. In this way, he demeans the event and insults the people who've done serious research including Peter Dale Scott, James Douglass ('JFK and the Unspeakable'), Mark Lane and many others. In this way he actually insults the memory of the 35th President.

2. The shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby created the perfect conditions for conspiracy theorizing to fester

In fact, the shooting of Oswald showed most of us at the time, who had the intellect to see it, that whoever was in charge of the assassination made sure the one person who might shed light wouldn't live to say anything. Only much later (30 + years) did the file release from the JFK Records Act confirm out worst fears - that Ruby was commissioned to kill Oswald as part of ZR/Rifle and Staff D, the super secret assassination program run under spook William Harvey- assisted by James Jesus Angleton.  See e.g.

"Fester"? Well, yeah - the Operation Mockingbird disinformationists in the media had festered for years allowing the anti-conspiracy memes to spread far and wide! (Yet Aaronson doesn't seem to have even heard of Mockingbird). It wasn't until actual documents could finally be released (LBJ had originally sealed them until 2039)  under the 1992 JFK Records Act that headway could be made.

3. Other high-profile assassinations to which we might compare this one—for example, those of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, RFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Yitzchak Rabin…—appear to have been the work of “lone nuts,” or at most “conspiracies” of small numbers of lowlifes.  So why not this one?

Because the EVIDENCE doesn't indicate it! Moreover, the evidence is now compelling that Martin Luther King was also assassinated in a conspiracy, as well as Robert Kennedy.

In the case of the King assassination, the breakthrough came with William F. Pepper's book Orders to Kill,  Pepper learned  that a film existed of the King assassination. It was in the hands of Army psyops (psychological operations) officers who had been in Memphis that day to take photographs of everything, everyone in the vicinity of the Lorraine Motel.  One of the officers, as Pepper noted - in his speech and in the book - just happened to spin his camera around on hearing the shot, toward the bushes in front of the motel.  The film held the clues Pepper needed and rather than do an injustice to the findings, I think blog readers need to get hold of the entire book, or at least avail themselves of this abbreviated account of Pepper's findings from the speech he gave on the subject 12 years ago:

The mechanics and basis  of the conspiracy for Robert Kennedy's assassination and using Sirhan B. Sirhan as another patsy was superbly described in Patrick Nolan's book,  CIA Rogues Killing Kennedys (Chapter 7 - 'Sirhan Bishara Sirhan - An Involuntary Pawn'.) Nolan's breakthrough came via released files and also managing to find security personnel at the Ambassador Hotel at the time and interviewing them. This also conforms with James Douglass' take (op. cit.) that all three were killed as part of the same extended plot masterminded by the national security apparatus.

The meme that all conspiracies are lone nut done is also stupid. For hundred of years - from the time of the Borgias - assassinations have occurred in Europe and few Europeans -whether German, Swiss or Italian, buy the codswallop they were done by lone nuts. As Rolf, a former Spezialdienst in Switzerland put it while we were in St. Gallen:  "Believing lone assassins were responsible for all the assassinations in Europe is to us like a child believing a single man - St. Nicholas- could deliver all presents around the world in a single night before Christmas. It's stupid!"

See also:

Further point: Aaronson attempts to show that Clay Shaw, the subject of the Jim Garrison case, was innocent and his reputation was slandered by conspiracy freaks. He is totally wrong. Years later, with release of files under the JFK Records Act, it would become evident that Shaw was indeed a CIA Contract Agent. As CIA Doc. (JFK 1993: notes (Why couldn't Aaronson obtain this?) :

"A memorandum marked for files says that J. Monroe Sullivan, #280201, was granted a covert security  approval as of 10 December 1962 so he could be used in Project QKENCHANT [Clay L. Shaw has #402897]"

Under the CIA  banner QKENCHANT one is cleared for intelligence procurement. Such clearance meant you were a safe contact  for the Agency and hence could be used as a "cut out" , with the CIA giving you only a certain amount of information. Clay Shaw then, had the ability to recruit other agents, thereby granting them security approvals. From the available files disclosed long after Garrison's efforts ended, Shaw used his QKENCHANT clearance to "plan or coordinate CIA activities" as well as "initiate relationships with non-Agency persons or institutions." In this guise, Shaw was effectively part of the CIA's clandestine services with Covert Security Approval, working under cover. 

Again, why didn't Aaronson try to obtain the file instead of shooting from the hip with a red herring? The answer - as with his other questions - is he wasn't prepared to do the grunt work! It's easy to spin off nonsense from one's keyboard and not bother with niggling details!
4. Oswald seems to have perfectly fit the profile of a psychopathic killer (see, for example, Case Closed by Gerald Posner).

Citation of Posner's idiocy is one of the first markers the serious researcher uses to confirm a person writing about the assassination is on the wrong track. Assorted investigators have been able to  assess just how closely Posner adhered to the known facts in his book. One of the earliest scrutinizing efforts was The Posner Report- A Study in Propaganda: One Hundred Errors in Gerald Posner’s Case Closed – Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by David Starks. Starks draws on the published reports and documents of true experts like Peter Dale Scott, Dr. Gary Aguilar and Martin Shackelford. The Report skewers Posner’s claims and effectively discloses a hack who made “hundreds of errors” in his pell-mell rush to judgment- likely part of the mandate first elucidated in CIA document 1035-960 * (which I doubt Aaronson even knows about).

The Electronic Assassination Newsletter which collates the research from most JFK Assassination experts documents twelve of the most serious “Posnerisms” here:

Those who take the time to examine, study the examples in the link will become aware of an unnerving lack of attention to detail and a penchant for what appears to be deliberate misrepresentation. Indeed, Posner’s entire case appears to be erected on a tissue of lies, misrepresentations, gross distortions and shoddy methodology

Meanwhile, Prof. David R. Wrone, whose review of Case Closed appeared in The Journal of Southern History, notes:

"Posner often presents the opposite of what the evidence says. In the presentation of a corrupt picture of Oswald’s background- for example – he states that, under the name of Osborne, Oswald picked up leaflets he distributed from the Jones Printing Company and that a ‘receptionist’ identified him. She in fact said that Oswald did not pick up the leaflets as the source that Posner cites indicates.

He adds:   "No credible evidence connects Oswald to the murder. All the data that Posner presented to do so is either shorn of context, corrupted, the opposite of what the sources actually say, or non-sourced."
And further:
"Posner crowns his theory with the certainty of science by using one side of the computer-enhanced studies by Failure Analysis Associates of Menlo Park that his text implies he commissioned. The firm, however, lambastes his use as a distortion of the technology that it developed for the American Bar Association’s mock trial of Oswald where both sides used it.”

Not surprisingly, many ordinary researchers as well as professionals (e.g. Harold Weisberg) contend Posner is likely a disinformation hack, possibly for the CIA, and perhaps even part of its notorious “Operation Mockingbird” propaganda machine which infected the U.S. Media from the 1970s.
More to Come!
* 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.


Richard Charnin said...


I reference your brilliant analysis in my new book:

Copernicus said...

Thanks for the link, Richard, I hope that many others will check it out!