A rebuttal of "The Holy Grail of JFK Conspiracies Will Never Be Found" by John McAdams
Professor John McAdams is a well-known figure of conspiracy criticism. Yet he often relies upon grand claims and insults. In the pursuit of discrediting all possible evidence supporting conspiracy, McAdams fails to realize much discrediting the official findings are within its own evidence. While some conspiracy advocates and critics deal in speculation, insults, and definitive presumptions, none have the definitive evidence to prove these claims.
The legal standard of a preponderance of evidence is not legally definitive; it relies upon all necessary evidence offered. It requires specific evidence as the basis for its claims. Unfortunately, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency each suppressed and denied the President's (Warren) Commission evidence.i ii Thus, how could any investigation without important primary evidence succeed or be definitive?
"For JFK assassination conspiracists, proof that a plot lay behind the murder of president John Kennedy has been the Holy Grail. They have pursued it with a fervor approaching that of the knights of the mythical kingdom of Camelot. They have not faced dragons, but something they think worse: a massive cover-up including multiple government agencies and the vast majority of the mainstream media. They have not aimed to rescue a fair maiden, but rather something more important: a nation that they believe was hijacked by an evil cabal in a coup d'état." (John McAdams)iii
The Arthurian references are quaint and largely applicable to the fringe of conspiracy advocates. Yet the inference most believe that entire agencies and the media conspired is inaccurate, this again is an attempt to define the majority by the views of the fringe. Reasonable people who conduct research accept no such construct is tenable. Feasibly it would have to be a handful of people and no entire agency was involved. Potential conspiracy requires a small group to prevent discovery or betrayal. Most were likely not government officials.
A reasonable view might suspect a few people to have knowledge of the possible operation's endgame. It would follow a military style plan to execute a politician considered a "clear and present danger to the cause of freedom".iv This compartmentalized group may consist of a few leaders, a few operational agents, and the "lost" assassin. The group could feasibly use a person of questionable background and political views, this socially compromised operative would assume blame for all involved.v This group would keep no written notes, and conduct all "covering actions" necessary.vi Despite the mythical references and disbelief presented by McAdams, primary evidence contends his disbelief.
"Early conspiracy theorists focused on Dealey Plaza, the park in Dallas through which Kennedy's limousine was passing when he was shot. They pointed to multiple witnesses who thought the shots came from the famous "grassy knoll" – a gentle slope to the right of the limousine. Had the shots really come from there, it would mean a conspiracy, since multiple eyewitnesses placed a shooter to Kennedy's rear, in the Texas School Book Depository. Two shooters would mean conspiracy, with people other than Lee Harvey Oswald (or in addition to Oswald) involved. But in the echo chamber, far more witnesses heard shots from the direction of the Depository than from the direction of the knoll. More telling, perhaps, is the fact that only three witnesses heard shots from both directions" (John McAdams)
I agree with McAdams that some earlier conspiracy advocates and critics did and continue to make untenable assumptions and hypotheses. Yet some who advocate conspiracy do not make these mistakes. McAdams disbelief in dozens of witnesses identifying the Grassy Knoll area is strange considering he personally affirmed at least thirty witnesses.vii McAdams states in the "echo chamber of Dealey plaza far more witnesses heard shots from the direction of the Depository..." thus he infers the larger number witnesses heard shots equates to greater credibility. So how in the "echo chamber" are these witnesses able to distinguish what others are not?
This inconsistent method of inquiry does not render the most reasonable ideas. Instead of discrediting large groups of contending witnesses, perhaps consider all the testimony. Reasonable consideration would allow that perhaps each group might be correct, and gunfire emerged from both locations. Seemingly, in his quest to discredit the witnesses opposing his hypothesis McAdams ignores that his supporting witnesses rely upon the same "echo chamber". Inconsistent testimony and proven deception are far more important to gauge credibility. The few witnesses who heard shots from both directions seem to impress McAdams more than dozens who state the Grassy Knoll area.
"Conspiracists have attacked the famous single bullet theory that holds that Kennedy and Texas governor John Connally, who was riding in front of JFK in the limo, were hit by the same bullet. The bullet would have to zig and zag in midair, they said. But copious photographic evidence shows that Connally was seated to Kennedy's left, lower than the president, and had his torso rotated to the right when he was struck. Every serious attempt to model the bullet trajectory, whether by the House Select Committee, the Itek Corporation (a top photographic analysis firm), Failure Analysis Associates or computer graphics expert Dale Myers has shown that the single bullet trajectory works." (John McAdams)
The term "conspiracists" is another derogatory phrase used by critics to discredit opposing viewpoints without substantial proof. It is a verbal ruse to distract from the inconclusive nature of some official investigation. Since I am not a ballistics expert, I rely upon the professional testimony of official and independent experts. Any credible primary evidence reasonably enjoys consideration even if it contends your ideas. The Single Bullet Theory is famous, yet that does not infer it is probable, nor conclusive.
McAdams states "copious photographic evidence shows..." yet this does not reveal the serious problems in the evidence or the official simulations. McAdams relies upon the President's Commission photographic evidence to support the Single Bullet Theory. Yet he denies the subsequent House Select Committee use of photographic evidence in part to determine a second gunman. It seems only supporting photographs from previous inquiries are relevant to him.
Among the official evidence disputing the Single Bullet Theory are most lead medical officials at Parkland and Bethesda Hospitals. Conspiracy critics often ignore the Parkland doctors and enlist the testimony of those at Bethesda. Yet they do not consider all the relevant Bethesda evidence. The Bethesda autopsy's lead surgeon Dr James Humes was questioned regarding Commission Exhibit 399. When asked if the (Single) bullet striking Connally's wrist could remain nearly whole Humes replied, "I think that is most unlikely."
"...it is most unlikely that this missile could have inflicted either of these wounds is that this missile is basically intact; its jacket appears to me to be intact, and I do not understand how it could possibly have left fragments in either of these locations."viii During portions of the autopsy physicians replace bone fragments to reconstruct the possible wounds of exit and entrance, adjustment of President's scalp occurs as well.ix Over twenty people entered and exited the autopsy, made phone calls, and took photographs. This allowed the possibility for distraction, alteration, and destruction of evidence.
The chain of custody was broken, and the Secret Service confiscated the photographs as they previously had the President's body. Officials then developed two separate sets of autopsy photographs. One was developed at the White House and the second at Anticosta Naval Center.The Commission relied upon feasibly compromised photographic evidence.
Multiple versions of contending photographic evidence now exist. Officials present at the autopsy dispute the official record and photographs in the National Archives. The only reason any doubts are tenable is repeated official suppression and incompetence. No mythical quest is necessary; review of the primary evidence without bias renders the substantial official deficiencies.
The medical evidence to establish the Single Bullet Theory is inconclusive. The highly regarded photographic medical evidence and its interpretation rely upon "presumptions".x Humes states in an interview the ballistics angles used in his testimony were a "guesstimate."xi Assisting Humes was Dr. Pierre Finck a forensic surgeon and ballistics expert. When questioned about exhibit 399 remaining intact and thus supporting the Single Bullet Theory, Finck replied, "Definitely not... No; for the reason that there are too many fragments described in the wrist."xii
Additionally disputing the Single Bullet Theory are replacement exhibits and the failure to use exacting standards. The Single Bullet trajectory the Commission determined is not based upon using the Presidential Limousine, but a similar Secret Service follow up car.xiii The limousine remodeling was apparently more important. Despite the Commission assuring such inconsistencies were accounted for, no inconsistencies would emerge if they actually used the proper vehicle.
The official simulations and tests state "The exact position of the men could not be re-created, thus the angle could only be approximated..." "Even though the precise distance cannot be ascertained..." "President Kennedy was somewhat to the Governor's right... "xiv Perhaps greater verification could have occurred using Governor Connally's clothing, but that was instead laundered.xv
As for the claims of Dale Meyers and conversely those who advocate the Single Bullet Theory is conclusively false, both are wrong. Neither side has conclusively proved anything to establish beyond reasonable doubts. However, to doubt the inconclusive is far more reasonable than to demand its acceptance as factual. Those who make such demands confuse their personal assessment for decisive evidence.
"It's a free country, and conspiracists have every right to continue their quest. But the sober-minded citizen has every right to conclude that the Grail will never be found. If a conspiracy (or at least, any conspiracy consisting of more people than could fit into an old Volkswagen beetle) killed Kennedy, we very likely would know about it by now. The "smoking gun" document would have been found. A credible witness would have come forward. Real scientists (and not the amateur hobbyists who populate the ranks of conspiracists) would have uncovered evidence tampering or fakery." (John McAdams)
Perhaps McAdams and the "sober minded" should not make definitive claims about officially inconclusive evidence. A grand claim is made that if more than Oswald had killed Kennedy, "we very likely would know about it now." These events have no expiration date. No actual trial occurred using the criminal standard of reasonable doubt. Perhaps no "smoking gun" exists because officials repeatedly suppressed evidence.
If one is not a "real scientist", they are an amateur hobbyist according to McAdams. A shame Dr. McAdams fails to display consistent regard for all the primary evidence. No person should make definitive claims without conclusive evidence. This includes scientists. McAdams also fails to state relevant analysis of scientists can reasonably be offered as supporting evidence for those who do not hold a degree in that discipline. Were the President's (Warren) Commissioners unfit make determinations without relevant degrees?
Both McAdams and I, are not forensic surgeons. Yet we both can still critically discuss the autopsy medical evidence and the methods of its acquisition. Admittedly, some do engage in research that is more sophisticated. They attempt to uphold higher standards of inquiry, they do not use insults but evidence. Some can undertake credible research and engage others with basic courtesy. No degree is required for critical thinking and unbiased inquiry.
McAdams has asked for examples of evidence tampering and fakery, perhaps the missing photographs from the Bethesda autopsy Dr. Humes noted.xvi Dr. Humes destroyed his first autopsy protocol and his notes.xvii Bureau Agent Siebert additionally contends the current photographic exhibits.xviii These are just two of the repeated officials that contend the Commission's presumptions. Arlen Specter tampered with testimony by stating Agents Siebert and O'Neill did not take autopsy notes, Siebert refers to Specter's claim as "absolutely false".xix Substantial deficiencies contend the Single Bullet Theory and the evidence it relies upon.
i. Hearings of the Select Comm. on Assassinations, Vol. IX, Section V, Possible Associations between Jack Ruby and Organized Crime, Part D, pp. 188-196
ii. House Select Comm., Lee Harvey Oswald's Trip to Mexico City, p.123, NARA ID: 108-101110-10484
iii. John McAdams, (November 18, 2013), The Holy Grail of JFK Conspiracy Theories Will Never Be Found, U.S. News, usnews.com
iv. CIA and Assassination File, Proposals of 1952-1954, Document 2 and Transcript, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 4, George Washington University, georgewashington.edu, p. 3
v. Ibid. p. 4
vi. Ibid p. 5
vii. John McAdams, (n.d.), Earwitness Tabulation, The Kennedy Assassination: Dealey Plaza section, mcadams.posc.mu.edu
viii. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume II, Testimony of Dr. James Humes, pp. 374, 375
ix. Assassination Records Review Board, Medical Exhibit Number 19, House Select Committee interview by Mr. Purdy of Rear Admiral George Burkley, n.d. , p. 6
x. Assassination Records Review Board, Dr. James Humes, p. 144
xi. ARRB, Dr. Pierre Finck, May 24, 1996, pp. 96
xii. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Volume II, Testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck, p. 382
xiii. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter 3: The Shots from the Texas Schoolbook Depository, The Trajectory, p. 97
xiv. Ibid, p. 105, 106, 107
xv. Report of the Pres. Com, Chapter 3, The Governor's Wounds, p. 94
xvi. ARRB, Testimony of Dr. James Humes, February 13, 1996, p. 200
xvii. ARRB, Testimony of Dr. James Humes, pp. 136, 137
xviii. ARRB, Testimony of James W. Siebert, September 11, 1997, pp. 126, 127
xix. AARB, Testimony of James Siebert, p. 137
If you wish to read more of Dr. John McAdams ideas see: http://www.usnews.com