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Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why [Paperback]

Gerald McKnight

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Book Description

30 Oct 2013
The Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ...was instantly implausible because the authors hid the secrets they knew (and ignored the ones they didn't). --David Ignatius, Washington Post Book World

That recent appraisal reflects a growing consensus that the Warren Commission largely failed in its duty to our nation. Echoing that sentiment, the Gallup organisation has reported that 75 percent of Americans polled do not believe the Commission's major conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the "lone assassin." Gerald McKnight now gives profound substance to that view in the most meticulous and devastating dissection of the Commission's work to date.

The Warren Commission produced 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits, more than 17,000 pages of testimony, and a 912-page report. Surely a definitive effort. Not at all, McKnight argues. The Warren Report itself, he contends, was little more than the capstone to a deceptive and shoddily improvised exercise in public relations designed to "prove" that Oswald had acted alone.

McKnight argues that the Commission's own documents and collected testimony--as well as thousands of other items it never saw, refused to see, or actively suppressed--reveal two conspiracies: the still very murky one surrounding the assassination itself and the official one that covered it up. The cover-up actually began, he reveals, within days of Kennedy's death, when President Johnson, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach all agreed that any official investigation must reach only one conclusion: Oswald was the assassin.

While McKnight does not uncover any "smoking gun" that identifies the real conspirators, he nevertheless provides the strongest case yet that the Commission was wrong--and knew it. Oswald might have knowingly or unwittingly been involved, but the Commission's own evidence proves he could not have acted alone.

Based on more than a quarter-million pages of government documents and, for the first time ever, the 50,000 file cards in the Dallas FBI's "Special Index," McKnight's book must now be the starting point for future debate on the assassination. It should also inspire readers to echo the Journal of American History's praise for his previous book: "McKnight's insistence upon remaining within the bounds of the evidence inspires confidence in his judgment."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; Reprint edition (30 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700619399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700619399
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,532,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A shrewd, well-researched, deeply provocative investigation into the gross delinquencies of the Warren Commission. Essential reading."--Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite"

About the Author

Gerald D. Mcknight is professor emeritus of history at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, USA and the author of The Last Crusade: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Continues the work of Weisberg 16 Oct 2005
By B. W. LeCloux - Published on
In his preface McKnight thanks Harold Weisberg, the dean of assassination critics who passed on in 2002. McKnight's volume presents many of the approaches to the evidence established in Weisberg's writings dating back to 1965.
McKnight essentially relies on Warren Commission evidence to devastate the claim---by the Warren Commission---that only LHO was involved in the JFK assassination. In this sense his work is similar to Professor David R. Wrone, Howard Roffman and Sylvia Meagher. All of these authors use mainly the official findings to disprove the official conclusions. For the most part this small group of critics has been ignored by the mainstream media and defenders of the official fiction.
They maintain that there were two conspiracies. One killed Kennedy and the other failed to properly investigate the crime.
There are dozens of gems in this book which destroy the official findings. Most of them are ignored by defenders of the official theory.
Here, I'll list just six:

1. The results of the tests on LHO's cheek and hands are that he fired no rifle on November 22. McKnight takes the reader through all of the available official documentation to support this fact. Those who continue to support the Warren Commission findings must ignore alot of evidence to claim Oswald fired the Mannlicher Carcano.
2. The time reconstructions of Oswald's movements along with the eyewitness evidence shows that LHO cannot have been the shooter and been where we know he was shortly after the assassination. McKnight cites the witnesses who did not see---but should have seen LHO---coming down the stairwell if he was the shooter. Oswald's alibi was first carefully laid out in full detail by Howard Roffman in his excellent Presumed Guilty volume of 1975. This book is usually ignored by supporters of the lone gunman theory---as they must---for it shows, using only official evidence---that LHO cannot have been the 6th floor shooter and been in the second floor lunchroom with a Coke in his hand with a minute and several seconds after the last shot.
3. The Charles Bronson film shows the alleged assassin's lair during the shooting with no Oswald in it.
4. The autopsy document shows that with a bullet entering JFK in the back at the level of the third thoracic vertebra it could not have exited upward through his throat (indeed, above his necktie) and then travelled downward into Gov. Connally, seated in front of the president.
5. The statements and testimonies of the Dallas doctors and those who performed the autopsy are consistent that the bullet which is alleged to have caused seven non fatal wounds in the President and the Governor could NOT have done this damage and remained essentially in pristine condition. Further, FBI ballistics expert Robert Frazier stated there was no blood or tissue on the bullet---it was officially linked to no body. And, McKnight definitely shows that the bullet cannot be linked by a chain of evidence to either Kennedy or Connally or the stretchers that held them.
6. McKnight cites the testimony of Dr. Joseph Dolce who performed scientific experiments showing that the ammunition attributed to Oswald cannot have caused the seven non fatal wounds to Kennedy and Connally. Dolce performed these experiments for the Warren Commission and they did not like his results so he was not called to testify before the Commission.
These results are always ignored by supporters.
McKnight is unable to shed light on one of the key remaining areas of doubt: just who was it who impersonated Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City several weeks prior to the assassination? Whoever did this was trying to implicate Cuba in the assassination of JFK. They failed but LBJ and Hoover and Warren failed the nation, truth and justice by not properly investigating the crime.
For those of you familiar with the works of Harold Weisberg, many of the documented claims in this book will not be new.
The work is important in that it takes the passion for truth and the ground breaking (but largely ignored) research of Weisberg and frames it from the viewpoint of the trained historian (...)
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two conspiracies 10 Oct 2005
By John C. Landon - Published on
Too many books on the JFK assassination get sidetracked by the many false leads there to tempt sober analysis. This remarkable addition to the literature is unique for its restraint, refusal to indulge in speculation, and careful focus on what can be documented, and no more. There were really two conspiracies, that of the Warren commision, and the conspiracy they stumbled on half-consciously but refused to pursue. Since their agenda was fixed in advance, making the 'lone nut' interpretation a foregone conclusion, the whole investigation was bogus. Many previous writers have gotten this far and confused this with the indirect, but very strong evidence of the other conspiracy. But as the author notes there is no smoking gun, only the many discrepancies in the evidence, and the transparnt deceptions in the way the initial investigation was carried out. The author's slow but steady pursuit of the basic deception of the Commission is convincing and manages to avoid the traps that have claimed too many previous efforts in this field. Everytime you think this field has reached its limits another book reopens the whole can of worms. Well done.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid excellent book 28 Sep 2005
By Zola - Published on
This book roots in a majesterial examination of the documentary records of the Warren Commission and the FBI, a product of careful, hard work conducted over the decades of the type seldom met with in most histories today and rarely in the JFK inquiry. In addition it is well written. The results are devatating to the coverup inflicted upon the American people by the Warren Commission. It should be noted that four of the members of the Warren commission did not believe their own Report, nor did LBJ, the District Attorney of Dallas, the Police Chief of DAllas and even the FBI and the Secret Service--as the documentary record shows beyond cavil. Russell and Cooper, members of the WC, did not believe the SBT, for example, and left records to the fact. Further, interviews with the head of the Secret Service and Warren Commission records prove the Commission and its staff saw the X-rays and medical photographs, some as early as December 1963. It is unquestionable that the WC and its chief counsel Rankin early on [January, 1964] worked with this knowledge, e.g. Jan. 22 executive session of the WC. To argue otherwise is blindly to accept and faithfully to reiterate the political devices employed by investigators as they realized late in their investigation that they had to coverup their nefarious actions and leave a pious paper file that to scholars is further affirmation of their failure. Breach of Trust's objective and scholarly presentation will assist the reader to understand the workings of the WC and lead an inquiring mind to the light. McKNight's unique book ought to become the standard reference to the crime for decades to come.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crucial work 7 Oct 2005
By Christian Toussay - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A much-needed addition to the JFK Assassination litterature, and the kind of book that should be required reading for all those who still cling to the "Lone-Nut" theory.

Now this is not your average conspiracy book.You won't find here any confession by an alledged participant in the crime, or any sensational claim by untill-then unknown witness.

The author's specific focus is the Warren Commission, its inner working and its relations with the investigative agencies (mainly the FBI and the Secret Service)and representatives of the Government.

Only in the last 5 pages does the author give us his own interpretation of the wealth of data that he has presented in the book, which focuses exclusively on reconstructing complicated paper trail of apparently innocuous documents and establishing decision making timelines.

And if you think (like I did) that this must make for some quite unexciting read, be prepared for a real surprise...

Though serious researchers will probably not find anything new in the book as far as information is concerned, the specific angle of the author's research has the immense merit to bring new shine to old data. And the facts, as they say, are stubborn.

The political bias that subverted the WC working is dully detailled and exposed. The ominous poker game between the FBI, the CIA and the Commission regarding crucial elements of the assassination record is irrefutably documented and takes on even more sinister undertones.

And the "Journal de Bord" of the day-to-day progress of the investigation does make for interesting reading.

Hard-core Lone Nuttists (yes, everybody can play that game...)might be interested in considering the following facts:

The WC, which relied for its investigation on the FBI and the Secret Service, reached a solution to the crime (the single bullet theory) which contradicts the findings of these two agencies (which by the way don't agree either with one another, but that's another story...). This unbelievable and fondamental discrepancy has never been explained (probably because it can not)

*Similarly, the medical staff who attended to JFK and Connally (and who should have known about gunshot wounds, working in one of America's most violent environment)

rejected the single bullet theory

*the crime was declared "solved" (one shooter, no accomplices) by Hoover a couple of hours after Oswald'S arrest. Even surmising that they could have, in such a short time, established beyond doubt that Oswald was the assassin, there is no conceivable way that the FBI could have determined at that point that Oswald had received absolutely no help whatsoever in his endeavour.

And on and on....The detailing of the Mexico City disinformation saga (or "Oswald as a KGB contract killer") is also priceless, and confirms the scenario of the crime on which most serious researchers agree today (even if they would fight one another to death about specific details...): a conspiracy reaching to the highest level of the American power structure, originating from irreversible opposition to Kennedy's foreign policy, a conspiracy which most probably was started by the "Bay of Pigs Thing", as Nixon crytically hinted, and got in full gear after the Missile Crisis and Kennedy direct negociations with Krutschev, in effect putting the US Intelligence apparatus "out of the loop" (except very probably for the NSA...)on a matter considered vital to the country's interests. It is more than evident that some may have considered Kennedy a National Security Threat, and felt entitled to take radical measures "for the good of the country".

Don't miss this one.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT WORK BUT LOON NUTTERS BEWARE 19 Feb 2013
By asdfg - Published on
Instead of adamantly supporting any particular theory other than LHO was definitely not a loon nut, "Breach of Trust" clearly explains how the Warren Commission began their so called investigation with the pre-determination of finding Lee Harvey Oswald guilty regardless of whatever evidence pointed elsewhere - or could have pointed elsewhere if they bothered looking. Even, for example, if the 19 doctors, nurses and aides at Parkland Hospital were mistaken about JFK's throat wound appearing to be that of an entry bullet, wouldn't a true investigation, at very least, spend some time exploring that possibility? Yet the WC didn't. Anything that was contrary to what the WC wanted to hear was either disregarded or not heard at all. As another example, of the 216 people in Dealey Plaza at the time JFK was murdered, 78 of them were NEVER called to testify before the WC. Some of those 78 witnesses included a couple of Dallas Police Department motorcycle officers who were only a few feet behind JFK's limo when he was shot. Needless to say, those 78 witnesses (not including children, naturally) apparently saw and/or heard something that didn't jive with the "official version". Again, wouldn't a legitimate commission given the task of determining what really happened demand hearing the testimony of every witness?

Members of the WC were not investigators and in fact, of the 56 WC meetings, Earl Warren attended 6 of them. The WC was primarily run by Chief Council J. Lee Rankin - a Hoover surrogate, Allen Dulles the former director of the CIA who JFK fired soon after the Bay of Pigs disaster, and Michigan congressman Gerald Ford who leaked information to one of Hoover's assistant directors regarding whatever was discussed by the WC's members. Other than that, nobody is certain what Ford did as a congressman, member of the WC or as the 38th president of the United States other than admitting he moved the bullet wound in JFK's back roughly 3 inches higher to somewhat correspond with the magic bullet theory. And why not? The clothing JFK wore that day was released from the National Archives in the 1990's while Ford was alive (assuming he ever was) and plainly indicated the bullet holes in JFK's suit jacket and shirt were some 5 inches below his collar. So unless Kennedy was a contortionist, bad back and all, his head would have needed to be between his knees for the bullet to exit his throat - and even that would have been a stretch (no pun intended).

At the time of the assassination FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was 68 years old. He had spent the past 40 years dedicating his life as the director of what became the #1 law enforcement agency in the world. Until 9/11, however, the FBI was generally more of an organization that responded after the fact as opposed to preventing crimes before they happened other than perhaps infiltrating subversive-looking groups or individuals and getting tips from their various paid informants. Nonetheless, Hoover was probably domestically more powerful than any president because of his bureau's wire tapping ability. He undoubtedly uncovered more dirt on politicians, judges and officials in all realms of authority so that his unelected position was always safe and secure. Hoover was likely so entangled in his own web of power and self-importance that when the assassination took him by surprise, not only was he embarrassed that he didn't see it coming, he was horrified that Oswald wasn't on the FBI's Security Index list because of his pro-Castro activities in New Orleans the summer before the assassination, whether real or phony, as well as Oswald's attempted defection to the Soviet Union in 1959 - whether that, too, was genuine or fake. Either way the FBI was remiss and who knows if history might have been different had the Secret Service and the DPD been stationed in and around the TSBD as JFK passed by? On top of that 16 days before the assassination Oswald left a severely threatening note to Special Agent James Hosty of the Dallas FBI office regarding Hosty harassing his (LHO's) wife, Marina - who was still a Russian citizen at that time. When Hoover learned of that note the weekend of the assassination along with an Oswald impostor visiting the Cuban and Russian embassy in Mexico City in late September/early October 1963 he completely hit the roof. The first rule of the bureau was to NEVER embarrass the FBI. He realized if the public ever got wind of any of this, the FBI would be considered responsible for JFK's death by not informing the Secret Service of Oswald's possible danger and the FBI's magnificent reputation would have been irrevocably destroyed. Hoover was therefore willing to sacrifice a potentially innocent man named Oswald in order to prevent that from happening while saving himself from leaving his life-long career on such an incredibly disastrous note. He had even told the new president the day after the assassination that so far their case against Oswald was "very weak". The following day it no longer mattered as Mr. Ruby resolved the problem of requiring a court trial involving The State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald. Once Oswald was dead the FBI had clear sailing to invent or distort anything necessary in order to show he was indeed the loon nut killer of JFK.

The book is replete with other evidence that would have exonerated Oswald in a court of law, all of which are footnoted citing actual testimony to the WC or other government agencies such as the Dallas Police Dept.; House Select Committee on Assassinations and tape recorded interviews. Certain facts never made it that far and would have proved there was more than one shooter in Dealey Plaza. Some of those facts were either suppressed or destroyed. One example that immediately comes to mind is a silent moving film from a man named Charles Bronson (not the late actor). It's a sequence of JFK's limo entering Elm St. from Houston St. where Bronson was standing and the TSBD was in the background. The only minor problem is there wasn't anyone in the window where the "sniper's nest" was found and that wasn't publicly known until a few years later - yet the FBI knew it but never told the Warren Commission.

At no time were the numerous suspicious deaths or other oddities mentioned besides the abnormal ways in which the WC conducted their business. In reality, the WC was basically rubber stamping reports the FBI submitted to them with little prying for possible errors or obvious conflicts of interest. If there was anything missing in "Breach of Trust", it was the author apparently didn't feel LBJ had anything to do with Kennedy's abrupt removal from office or at very least had foreknowledge of when and where it was to happen. On the other hand, if author McKnight didn't have anything to go on other than hearsay from Johnson's former mistress, he's certainly forgiven.

Of the 13 Chapters, the first 6 are devoted to the WC, beginning with how it was created. The remaining chapters are indirectly involved with the WC by discussing JFK's autopsy; the birth of the single bullet fabrication; whether LHO was a government agent; Oswald's trip to Mexico City; how a couple of the WC members had dissenting views from the others which was never made public and finally the author's conclusion that I won't reveal. But if you're a true JFK/Dallas affectionardo, even a loon nutter and want to better understand what the WC was really about, "Breach of Trust" is a must read.
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