tv American Artifacts CSPAN September 27, 2014 10:00am-10:55am EDT
ladies' fashion. find our program schedule at www.c-span.org. let us know what you think about the programs. call us. e-mail us. or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook. supreme court chief justice earl warren handed a report on the president's commission on the of president kennedy. the commissioner is pictured here with president johnson and general counsel jay leno lee renken, concluded that lee harvey also walled acted alone -- a lee harvey oswald acted alone.
we set up a camera in a fourth floor conference room to talk to investigative journalist philip examines, whose book the warren commission's work, using key phone calls, documents, and artifacts. he explains some of the lingering controversies regarding the warren report. we take a brief to her of the -- reef tour -- we take a brief tour of the or in commission's -- of the warren commission's office. >> it was in this room here on this floor that the warren
commission saw for the very first time the entirety of the committee -- the investigations of hearing would take place down here at the time. we harvey oswald's brother was here. -- much oftographs the work was done on the fourth floor. are now on the fourth floor of the u.s. capital historical society, where this would have been the working floor for the warren commission. i will show you the office of chief justice earl warren. this is his desk and his chair. >> are you pretty sure this is his chair? , absolutely. we have a lot of information on it.
he worked every day and then came here in the after hours to see how the investigation was going. this being the office of chief wasice earl warren, this the conference table that existed in his office at the time. office ofdoor was the occupied staff counsel here. -- our inspector came here to inspect the building a couple of years ago. now we are entering the conference room of what would
have been the warren commission, investigating the death of the president. much of the furniture in the room we inherited from veterans of foreign war. >> i think this room was used for individual witnesses, small-scale interviews, the less critical witnesses. there was a very important witness and several commissioners were in attendance. i understand it was held downstairs in a larger conference room. a tremendous amount of business was transacted in this room. i wrote this book because my first look was a history of the 9/11 commission. covered the 9/11 commission investigation for the new york times start to the net. -- start to finish. there was a lot of the story i had missed. interviewing aby lot of the staffers who did a
lot of the digging of the 9/11 commission. after the book got some nice reviews i got a telephone call with my desk in the washington bureau of the new york times. a prominent new york lawyer who began his own career 50 years earlier on the staff of the other great commission to investigate the national tragedy, which was the warren commission. he suggest i do a similar history of the warren commission. he promised to help so long as i .ept his name out of this went and had an interesting project that may take me a couple of years to do. it turned out to take five years because it was such a of mixingd morass
evidence. >> we are going to look at some artifacts. there is a picture of the warren commission. >> perhaps you want to point out the members of the commission that are there. this is the former president of and a gray-haired eminence in washington of long-standing. , whoto him is j lee renken really ran the staff. system -- the solicitor general in the administration.
him's general russell, who was sign the warren report even though it became clear that he didn't agree with the report, that there may have been a conspiracy in kennedy's death. to him is gerald ford, who would go on to become president of the united states. he was at the time a powerful house republican. it would later be learned that he volunteered to be a secret informant for the fbi. next to him chief justice warren. president johnson. next the president johnson is allen dulles. he is the director of central intelligence for many years, who would be forced out of that job that job by the debacle the bay of pigs. knew about the cia
plots to kill fidel castro. he may have ordered some of that . he apparently never shared that information with the warren it wouldn, even though suggest a hazard the commission should follow. cooper fromtor kentucky, a moderate republican. next to him is congressman boggs from louisiana, who was prominent in the democratic leadership of the house and was close to john kennedy. >> how should remark that day, the anniversary of the release of the warren report? >> merriam -- we should market with very mixed feelings. definitivee answers to the many questions about the kennedy assassination. the president who recieved that
report that day ultimately decided that the report was wrong. he felt the commission had been misled. it is a remarkable thing to discover the president of the united states did not believe their findings. >> president johnson was thrust into power by the assassination. his initial instinct was not to have a federal investigation of the assassination. it turns out and assassination in 1963 of the president was not a federal crime. a trial would have to be arranged by the local and state officials. he didn't want a bunch of carpetbaggers going into his home state of texas to run this investigation.
conspiracy theories started to spin. some of those focused on lyndon .ohnson he said these theories are spinning so wildly i have to put an end to it. he says he asked put an end to buy creation of an independent commission in washington to and about this man who was apparently the president's assassin. on chief justice earl warren as the only man who can run this. lauren was a controversial figure in america in 1963. -- alsolso mired admired for his independence and integrity. johnson wanted to show it was truly bipartisan.
johnson also wanted representatives from the house and senate to serve on the commission. he wanted his own representative on the commission. probably the most powerful man in the senate in 1963. if anyone loathed anyone in washington dc, earl warren. russell felt he had the potential to destroy the southern way of life and would bring the segregation to the south and destroy his homeland. fridayafternoon of november 29, a week after the assassination, russell is called by president johnson and asked if he will serve on this commission.
it was not referred to as the warren commission in those days. johnson listens to him, hangs up the phone, and decides that even though russell does not want to serve he will serve. johnson has the white house .ress issue a statement russell's audit even if he doesn't want to be. again.te to bother you i want you to know i made an announcement. may i read it to you? appointing a's special commission to study and report about all the facts and circumstances relating to the
assassination of the late president, john f. kennedy, and the subsequent filing death of the man charged with the assassination. the president stated the majority and minority leadership had been consulted. the members of the special commission art chief justice earl warren, senator richard , representative gerald -- , the president stated that the special commission is to be instructed to evaluate all available information concerning the subject of the inquiry. flabbergasted by what johnson had done. russell told johnson he did not want to serve on this
commission, he could not serve on this commission. it must have been a nightmare situation. he salutes and accepts the assignment over a final protest with the president. johnson used similar strong-armed tactics with the chief justice. on warren as the only man who can run this investigation. when the roaring -- when warren gets the invitation to serve he turns it down flat.
warren is summoned within hours to the oval office and unfortunately to the best of our knowledge there is no recording of this. the president tells warren in no uncertain terms that the assassination may lead to a nuclear war that will kill 40 million americans and if that happens it may be the responsibility of the chief justice, unless he serves on this commission. apparently this confrontation leads -- this confrontation leads the chief justice to -- >>'s waltz guide map to mexico city, what is that? is in manymind there ways what is the untold chapter
of the kennedy assassination story. harveyppened when lee azua walled travel to mexico city just weeks before the assassination? went -- admits when i went into the reporting into this book i did not know anything about this trip to mexico city. it may be very important. both the cia and fbi were determined not to figure out what happened in mexico city because it may reveal just how much they need had known about oswald and the threat he might pose to president kennedy. walled went i was to get the visas and paperwork that would allow him to defect to cuba, as much as he wanted to defect to the soviet union. we now know while he is under surveillance by the cia in mexico city, he is meeting with
andn and russian spies several mexicans who are sympathetic of fidel castro's revolution. people at the height of the cold war may have wanted to see president kennedy dead. what oswald told them and what they told oswald would never be determined with certainty because the fbi and cia did not try to get to the bottom of it. >> this is in the warren report. >> this is the best of where oswald went and who he might have met with in mexico. we know a tremendous amount of information about his trip to mexico was never shared with the lawrence -- with the warren commission.
am i your book begins by telling thattory of a suicide relates to mexico city. why did you start with that? >> it is a remarkable story. in 1965, a year after the war and commission goes out of business, an american diplomat based in a mexico city learns, to his shock, that awes walt may have been seen around town in -- full who may have wanted to see president kennedy dead. thomas, apparently a very fine man, very fine diplomat, thought
somebody needed to investigate and see if the warren commission had gotten it wrong and if there was some sort of conspiracy to kill the president and if that conspiracy was hatched in mexico city. oft the story becomes is one utter frustration. investigate and get to the bottom of this. he keeps asking the question again and again and again. for reasons that are very mysterious at the time thomas finds his career derailed. finds himself forced out of the state department for what would later be described as mistakes of a clerical nature. there is some reason to believe he was forced out because he was asking too many question about what the cia and fbi knew about mexico city.
get the references from the state department and the rest of the government that will allow him to get a new job. towards the end of his life he does write a letter to the secretary of state, william rogers, asking and pleading that somebody try to get to the bottom of what happened in mexico city. there is no subsequent investigation. tom is tragically kills himself two years later. what did the warren commission due in mexico city? what was their opinion of what happened there? >> to staff lawyers -- two staff lawyers were on the commission.
he was very occupied with his work at the philadelphia law firm and wasn't involved in the day-to-day commissions. was very intrigued by what happened in mexico city and wanted desperately to get to the bottom of what happened down there. is a tremendous amount of information of what went on in mexico city was never shared with the commission. i think it is fair to say the commission never got to the bottom of what actually happened in mexico. >> this is an artifact that the national archives allowed us to videotape. it is oswald's address book. page, thethis consulate of cuba. >> soviet therein turns out to be an important figure in this.
the commission staff saw her as an important figure. she is a young mexican woman, a committed socialist, who is employed by the consulate in mexico city. she is the person who dealt face to face with all swapped while he tried to get the paperwork from the government that would allow him to defect. there is reason to believe there was a relationship with oswald and durand that went outside the walls of the consulate. they hope somebody would kill president kennedy. after much negotiation, it appears she will agree to be
interviewed. that idea is vetoed by chief justice warren, who refuses. never vital witness is questioned by the commission. i tracked her down in mexico last year. she continued to deny she had any sort of relationship with oswald outside of the four walls of the cuban consulate. there's a lot of evidence to the contrary. cubans want the kennedy to be assassinated? >> this is the height of the cold war. >> a year before that there had been the debacle at the bay of pigs where the kennedy administration and the cia attempted overthrow castro. we now know the kennedy administration was trying to
kill castro through these assassination plots. some of them involving the mafia. >> another page in his address has -- what is the significance of that? >> he is the fbi agent who we now know had oswald under surveillance for weeks before the assassination and actually went out to the home where oswald's wife was living to interview her. what she tells lee harvey oswald, he writes her name and telephone number. this particular piece of paper would create an in norm is a rift in the commission and the fbibecause it appears the
try to eliminate this portion of the notebook when attended documentation over to the warren commission. apparently in an effort to prevent the warren commission oswald newg that this fbi agent had him under surveillance. a very dedicated member of the and thismmission staff type of summary the fbi had to see ifupposedly anything had been misstated in the typewritten version. he discovered the names were removed in what had been an the names.ide
there is a story of the artifact -- there's a story that we can't look at. a letter are as walled -- a letter also destroyed himself. a we know oswald was so agitated about the fbi's surveillance of him and his family before the assassination that he actually went to the dallas field office of the fbi and presentedmber some sort of letter in which he protested the surveillance. the fbi office would later say oswald appeared to be very angry, maybe even crazy with anger. after the assassination of president kennedy and after oswald was killed, the decision was made in the fbi office that
this must be destroyed. apparently the same age and then takes the note to a men's room, shreds it down the toilet. surprise to you when you hear about all these things that there are one million conspiracy theories? >> not at all. i leave this with the inability to say even the craziest conspiracy theory has no basis in fact because so much basic .vidence was destroyed >> johnson said the fbi will fully cooperate and help the warren commission.
a lot of these pieces of evidence have an fbi number and commission number. what was their relationship like? >> the fbi, the cia were ordered to cooperate fully with the warren commission. clear the fbi and cia never fully cooperated with the commission. commission was a staff of a couple of dozen people. it could not conduct the mass is an investigation that would need to be conducted -- the massive investigation that would need to be conducted across the country. fbi was gathering robert serial that was then shared with the commission. the question is how much of this raw evidence was withheld. >> a teacher in dallas befriends
and invites her and her children to live with lee harveyime while assad is outside of dallas. she would be a keen -- a key figure in the investigation. i think history shows she was forthright with the warren commission. is one of afact group of artifacts videotaped by the national archive for the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. >> a bullet found in the home of -- edwin walker was a retired army general. he had actually been retired after creating a stir. extremist whoight
was overseeing extremist groups in the dallas area, was a national figure in the inregation movement, and april 1963 somebody tries to kill edwin walker at his home in dallas. and for weeks thereafter it was not clear who the assassin was. it would be determined that the assassin was lee harvey oswald. used the same rifle and trying to kill walker that he would use to kill president kennedy. it is marina oswald who says it was her husband who tried to kill walker. we are in the offices that the warren commission occupied. did marina oswald come here? >>
she did. for several days she was the leadoff formal witness for the commission. she was an important witness because she made it clear she thought her husband had killed president kennedy and she thought he had done it a loan. among other things in her initial interviews with the fbi and secret service, she denied she had knowledge of this mexico city trip. >> the so-called magic bullet, and what was the significance of that for the commission? >> the single most controversial piece of evidence from the kennedy assassination investigation. it is the bowl at the commission staff would conclude had passed
through the bodies of both president kennedy and texas , whichr connally contradicted the initial fbi report on the investigation -- report on the assassination. the first olid hit president kennedy in the back, the second hit connally in the back, and the third one hit president kennedy in the head. determined,on staff , that oswald would not have time to fire off three individual will it's in to the limousine. that would suggest there had been at least one other gun man. the staff was convinced he acted alone. theory initially offered pathologists,navy that one bullet perhaps passed through both bodies.
that is what the commission staff and subsequently what a lot of serious scientists have determined as a. one bullet passed through the bodies of both men and this is that bullet. what surprised a lot of people was this bullet wasn't much more --aged then it appears to me appears to be. as you can see it is not fully pristine, it was damage to some. some scientists say they would expect to see much more damage. .here are no rules here a lot of ballistics investigation is a lot more art than science. all of the most reliable scientific evidence, indeed this bullet did pass through both bodies. it turned up in the hospital after the presidents death. letter is the original in accompanying the bullet. >> it falls off the stretcher
and becomes important to the commission staff and arlen specter, the young investigator who is handling a lot of this. it had presumably passed through resident kennedy's bodily -- kennedy's body before hitting governor connally. reportmentioned an fbi that made conclusions that came out in december. m a lot of confusion at the beginning of the investigation is created by what is supposedly an authoritative fbi report on the assassination, delivered it the white house and the warren commission. it is supposedly the result of this most aggressive fbi investigation of all time. the war commission takes one , the commission will
have to do a much more aggressive investigation. this initial report had a lot to do with setting an ugly tone that existed between them. >> how could the leading law withcement agency sophisticated labs and experience agents make a report that these lawyers considered inadequate and sloppy? >> it is a good question we know now the fbi was never as to , never had the integrity we would have hoped it to have.
and the fbi had a big problem after the assassination. the fbi did have lee harvey oswald under surveillance. it became important to fbi toector j edgar hoover, prove that laws walled -- that oswald was a lone wolf, that and heas no conspiracy seems determined to prove that, regardless of what the facts might show. thehis is a model used by foreign commission >> this now exists at a museum located in what used to be the texas school book depository. here to make it easy for people to understand the
sequence of events in dealey plaza. to tryof cars were used to indicate where the president's limousine and other cars in the motorcade had been at different times. hughes often were for two as the father of the single bullet theory. you can see him demonstrating how the single bullet theory would have happened, that a bullet passing through the body of this first gentleman, who is sitting in for president kennedy, it would have passed through him and then hit governor connally in the back. the commission staff felt strongly from the earliest days that they needed to go to dallas, they needed to -- they
needed to reconstruct as much of the assassination as they could. wanted to take the rifle, the one oswald apparently used, they wanted to affix a camera to and see what all is what would have seen through the scope of his rifle when he was taking the shots. it turns out chief justice warranted not want to do this reconstruction. he did not want to create this media ruckus in dallas. eventually he was convinced it had to be done. film you can download online is a reconstruction of his movements. of this is a reconstruction the perch on the sixth floor. it shows how he would have left
that floor or left the building. >> and then sitting down where this man thinks a coke. himwas the timing of leaving his perch and exiting the building so important? >> it is important because witnesses do encounter oswald in this cafeteria. he did have time to fire the shot and get to the sixth floor where he is seen swigging a soda. the warren commission does this is true in several situations, that he is remarkably calm and poised and articulate.
>> i would say this about the ballistics. it is a confusing topic. certain experience were done by the warren commission and many have been done in the decade since. the most reliable scientific evidence shows the bullet fragments that can be identified appear to have come from oswald's rifle. >> this is one you requested we look at and the national archives allowed us to videotape . this was found in oswald's pocket after his arrest. >> it reflects an investigation that was carried out by the warren commission staff that was not reflected in the warren commission's final report. one of the most aggressive of the staff lawyers becomes convinced that all is walled was
trying to flee somewhere. this young lawyer, a philip by the name of david from iowa -- david from iowa, finds this bus transfer on the day of the assassination, suggesting oswald was going to use this to get we knewe in particular there was a blessed that he wanted connect to. came to the conclusion oswald may have been heading back to mexico. perhaps he encountered cubans or mexicans who were sympathetic to castro who offered to help oswald. it was only a theory. it was not reflected in the
warren commission's final report. they wanted to rule out speculation and what conspired with oswald. >> was there a lot of tension? was not a lot of communication, certainly not a lot of direct communication. they were really cut off from the commissioners. there was very little interaction with them and that became a matter of great frustration. that never gets close to getting into the final report. the commission does not want to
encourage speculation, even though it may point to co-conspirators in the assassination. camera stored at the national archives. >> on the day of the assassination they wanted to record images of the president's motorcade passing through dealey plaza. that he would capture all the essential images of the assassination. ands 26 seconds of film certainly the most important piece of evidence that the warren commission has. it documented every essential moment of the assassination and essentially acted as a clock. it could suggest when individual shots were fired and when
individual shots hit the bodies of president kennedy and governor connally. >> that created an awkward situation where the warren commission to not immediately have access to this very vital piece of information. eventually life magazine hands over the original film so the commission can see it. i think it is undoubtedly the most important piece of physical evidence the commission had access to. >> there is another document you told us about in an e-mail, and unpublished memoir by winston scott. cia'sston scott was the chief for mexico city in 1963. he was certainly more powerful than any of the ambassadors in mexico city he served under.
he had sources throughout the mexican government. it turned out after the assassination that he and his colleagues at the cia station had oswald under pretty aggressive surveillance during his mexico city trip. when scott told the warren commission, when staff members go to mexico city to meet with him, he tells the warren commission he does not believe there was a conspiracy, certainly no conspiracy that had to do with mexico city or the surveillance that was conducted. his memoirs, which were declassified in the 1990's, -- he that he you by
thought it might be soviet union. the reasons for him not telling the truth are baffling. there is good reason to believe that he knew much more about lee harvey oswald and what happened in mexico 10 he ever wanted to share with the warren commission. he never pass that information onto washington, where it might have been used to save the president's life. >> you mentioned an eye-popping document in the cia. summary of what they knew about oswald. >> the cia puts together this incredible chronology day by day by day about what they had known ,bout lee harvey oswald
specifically what the cia knew about his travels to mexico. it shows the cia had been a weird -- had been unaware pretty quickly after the assassination 's or math of the commission went out of business there was much more to the story of oswald in mexico city than had ever the shared with washington record shows the cia knew more about up oswald then ever telling anybody. there are still documents about the kennedy assassination, about the knowledge of oswald, that are still in the national archives. there is reason to believe the in one have had contact form or another with oswald while he was in mexico city. that ife they feared they had been in some sort of contact it would have been -- it
would have created a massive scandal. years later congress would investigate the kennedy assassination. they would find witnesses within who said there were photographs of oswald during his mexico city trip and it appeared there were tape recordings of telephone calls while in mexico city. the cia would claim the tapes were routinely erased from the assassination. it appears they may have well existed. your book with mexico city and end with mexico city. can we know what happened there? what is your conclusion when you think about mexico city?
hope i have is there may still be questions to the answer in mexico city. there are people alive to this seem to know what they were doing in the fall of 1963 than they ever shared with the united states government or were ever asked about at the time. did inf people work nor 1963 and 1964. they place oswald in the company of people who wanted to see president kennedy dead, who encouraged him to go back to texas and do what he did. i think the single most eye-popping document i found in -- a letter sent by j edgar hoover to the war on condition, in which he reveals
very reluctantly that the fbi reliableacross information to suggest that oswald had been talking openly about his intention to kill president kennedy, that he marched into an embassy. and announced he was going to kill president kennedy. that letter seems to have disappeared. i have shown it to members of the warren commission staff, the men who should have seen it at the time. they are convinced they never sought. were there people in mexico city who hearing this man talk openly about his plan to kill president kennedy encourage him to do that? promised him help if they can
get out of the united states after killing the president? it appears they never saw this letter. >> this is a video of the war and report. did this work serve the public >> i think history shows missed an commission tremendous amount of information. information was hidden from the warren commission. there is at least the possibility that people knew what he was planning to do and may have encouraged him to do what he was going to do. conspiracy is a loaded word >>
we are sitting in the conference room the warren commission used. what did the people who came to you, what has been their reaction to their work? >> a lot of it has been horrifying to discover just how much evidence was withheld from in 1964. i don't think they knew the extent of it until now. a lot of people who were central , a lot of my book them are gratified to see my book recognizes the fact that most of them were not trying to hide anything. they work to their hearts out on this investigation. i think they are pleased with the fact that history tried to show they try to do their jobs well.
>> you have written two books about very important commissions about the history of the united states. what lessons can the american public draw about your work? >> i will tell you the largest conclusion that i have come to. both the 9/11 commission and warren commission investigation were hindered by the fact that politics and politicians played that has damaged the reputation of both investigations. i wonder whether or not when we face the next national tragedy haveer or not we want to truly independent scholars and historians run these investigations. that may have served us really well, if real historians and scientists, real technicians got
involved in the investigation of president kennedy. that may have resolved a lot of the conspiracy theories about both of these tragedies we have to contend with. >> this weekend on the c-span network, tonight at 8 p.m. eastern a national town hall on the critical and historic impact of voting. theght at 10 on book tv -- distractions of technology and the impact of society. tonight at 10 on american history tv, author jonathan wight on the role of the union army.