The Kennedy Assassination Tapes
A Rebuttal to the Acoustical Evidence Theory
James C. Bowles
CHAPTER TWO - CRITIQUE OF THE COMMITTEE REPORT
This chapter follows the order of Section B of the Committee Report. Selected passages from the Report will be cited followed by critical commentary.
The Report got off to a bad start before it deteriorated. Footnote 2, (Committee Report, page 66) states that Channel 1 was serviced by a continuous recording.
As noted in Chapter I, this is incorrect. An insignificant error, but a needless error. One which should not have been made and one which would not have been made had the Committee staff asked someone who knew the details of the Dallas Police Department Communications system. An open microphone on Channel 1 kept the Channel 1 recorder running for just over five minutes during the time of the assassination. This five-minute period is the only segment of tape recorded continually.
The Committee Report states that the original Dictabelt recordings made on Channel 1 as well as tape recordings of Channels 1 and 2 were made available to the Committee and were furnished to Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. for analysis. The Report added that there was no evidence that any of the materials had been tampered with.
The questions here is, "original" on whose authority? Where did the tapes come from? Untampered with by whose authority?
Shortly after the assassination the author made reel-to-reel tapes of the recordings for the Warren Commission prior to his using the recordings in preparing a transcript. The tapes were made with and without a scratch filter, and were necessary if the contents of the recordings were to be preserved. The belts had already been subjected to uncounted replays prior to their being preserved on tapes. Past experience had shown that multiple replays lowered the recording's quality considerably. More over, the repeated lowering of replay needle against the Dictabelt added minute dimples in the belts. It is possible if not probable that these dimples, when read by the acoustics experts' sensitive equipment, generated "impulse patterns" present throughout the belts. Is it possible that these indentations were concluded to represent gunshots but only where it was essential for gunshots to appear?
The Committee Report does not address itself to this point, but shouldn't it have done so? According to information furnished by members of the media, critical analysis was made only of a small segment of the recordings. Although the mike was open for more than five minutes, only that segment judged to be somewhere between 12:30:30 and 12:31:00 (per their estimate of actual time) received scientific acoustical analysis.
How many "shots" could have been found had they looked on either side of that segment?
Next, the Report states that neither the tapes nor the Dictabelts contained discernible sounds of gunfire. While bearing in mind that the "gunfire" was inaudible "impulse patterns" it is difficult to understand certain later statements in the Report.
On page 79, the Committee Report states, "The sound of a rifle shot is so pronounced, however, that it would be picked up even if it originated considerably further away from the microphone than other less intense noise sources, such as a crowd." On the same page, the Report states, "This corroboration was considered significant by the Committee, since it tended to prove that the tape did indeed record the sounds of shots during the assassinations." (Emphasis added.)
What is the truth? Are there sounds of shots or aren't there? What do "impulse patterns" sound like? Are they audible or inaudible?
On page 67, the Committee Report states that Bolt Beranek and Newman were asked to make certain determinations, one being "Whether the recordings were, in fact, recorded from a motorcycle with a microphone stuck in the 'on' position."
The Report does not clearly state BBN's answer to that question. However, one might infer that they did determine that the recordings were from the open mike on a motorcycle by the reference to their having filtered out "repetitive noise" such as the repeated firing of the pistons of the motorcycle engine. On the other hand, one might wonder if this is a correct assumption, for on page 73 the Report refers to ". . . during which time the motorcycle or other vehicle would have, at 11 miles per hour, traveled about five feet." Perhaps the Committee were not convinced the open mike was on a motorcycle.
At any rate, having isolated the beats of the engine, it would have been a simple matter to have counted the beats, translated those beats into revolutions per minute, then into miles per hour. However, to have done so would have been fatal to the project, for they would have found that the motorcycle was operating at 25 to 35 MPH, averaging approximately 30 MPH. This would in no way correlate to the speed of a motorcycle in the motorcade which, at the same time, was moving through the downtown central business district at a speed of no greater than 6 to 8 MPH.
The open mike started its prolonged transmission at approximately 12:29:10, Channel 1 time. The motorcycle ran at approximately 30 MPH for almost 2 minutes, during which time it would have traveled nearly 2 miles. During this same time interval the motorcade was approaching the west end of Main Street, then making a slow U-turn onto Houston Street followed by a slow turn onto Elm Street. The crowd along the motorcade route was extremely heavy, pressing out into the street with individuals breaking out of the main body and rushing forward for a closer look at President Kennedy. At no time did the motorcade reach 11 MPH during this period. Frequently, they were at "walking speed" and barely able to average 3 to 3 1/2 MPH, with a top speed of about 5 MPH.
It is impossible for the open mike to have been in the motorcade for this reason alone.
Furthermore, none of the essential sound characteristics of an escort motorcycle are present on the tape. The sound characteristics do, however, clearly indicate that the motorcycle was not in the motorcade. In addition to the conflicting rates of speed, the escort motorcycles stopped frequently, waiting for proper vehicle intervals; they revved their engines in short bursts to attract the crowd's attention so they could move them back out of the street; and there were the stops for the turns from Main to Houston, and from Houston to Elm. None of these characteristic sounds are present.
Also conspicuous by its absence is the crowd noise, but this will be addressed later under another heading.
Why did the Committee refuse to conduct these tests?
Bolt Beranek and Newman were also asked to determine the time interval between the shots. According to the chart, Committee Report, page 80, the times were set as being between 12:30:47 and 12:30:55.3, an 8.3 second interval, the time stated being their determination of exact time.
The commonly accepted time standard for the interval of the shots is the Zapruder film.(1) How were the Committee able to be so exact when there is no way of determining the original run-speed of the recorders, and no way to insure that the unit they used for replay 15 years later ran anywhere near the same speed? Yet they were able to pinpoint the times to tenths of a second, matching the intervals they judged to be correct from the Zapruder film. The accuracy of such timing is very doubtful. A slight disparity in the record and replay speeds would make an exact match-up impossible. A very small error in their calculation of time would throw the "impulse sequence" match-ups completely out of place and would thus have been fatal to their project.
Having found six "sequences of impulse patterns," screening tests were designed to answer questions. Three of those questions deserve close attention:
1. Do the impulse patterns occur during the period of the assassination;The first question cannot be answered with exact certainty because the exact time of the assassination is not known. It can only be approximated. According to the chart on page 80 of their Report, the Committee indicated that the assassination shots were fired between 12:30:47 and 12:30:56.3 p.m. (Channel 1). This determination is incorrect. The acoustical experts examined and the Committee considered the wrong interval of the recording.
2. Does the time span of the impulse patterns approximate the duration of the assassination as indicated by the Zapruder film; and
3. Does the shape of the impulse patterns resemble the shape, and are the amplitudes of these impulse patterns similar to those produced when the sound of gunfire is recorded through a system comparable to that of the Dallas Police radio network?
With regard to the second question, the irregular recording and play-back speeds make it impossible to calibrate the tape speeds with anything, much less the interval of shots as recorded by Mr. Zapruder's film, and certainly not within fractions of seconds. To claim that they can is a serious deception.
With regard to the third question, the Committee focused attention on the shape and amplitudes of impulse patterns as they would be recorded through the existing equipment. However, no mention was made regarding how many other sound sources they could (should) have considered which would have generated patterns of similar shape and amplitude. Are gunfire patterns so unique that they can be isolated from all other patterns, with absolute certainty? Wouldn't amplitude patterns be affected by several modifiers such as the dynamics of origin and distance, as well as natural and physical interference? Also, sound is not a single thing. Sound is a complex of frequencies. When a filter is applied to a given sound to remove a given frequency level, it modifies all sources containing that frequency, not those desired sources. Simply stated, when they added filtering, they modified their "impulses" as well. On page 72, the Committee Report acknowledges that their matches did not ". . . prove conclusively that the impulses on the 1963 dispatch tape did, in fact, represent gunfire from the book depository or the grassy knoll." Also, that there was ". . . a chance that random or other noise could have produced the pattern. . . ." After conducting additional tests, the Report still stated (Committee Report, page 75) that finding no evidence of any other cause of noise, the Committee ". . . concluded that the cause was probably a gunshot fired at the motorcade." Doesn't that sound like "a very definite maybe?" Can these patterns be summarily declared to be gunshot patterns to the exclusion of all else?
On page 70, the Committee Report states that the grassy knoll was chosen as the likely site to test for another shooter because ". . . there was considerable witness testimony suggesting the shots were fired from there."
There are some problems with the words considerable and witness. "Considerable" means a large or great number, and "witness" requires certain positive sight or knowledge. More correctly, the Report should have acknowledged that "some bystanders had guessed that the shots were fired from there."
Curiously, of the Committee's "witnesses" who thought or even believed the shots (plural) came from the area of the grassy knoll, only one, S. M. Holland (Committee Report, page 89) referred to a single shot. Typically, those people who considered that the shots came from the area of the grassy knoll thought all shots came from there. A few thought the shots came either from the knoll or from the Texas School Book Depository. Doesn't this suggest that most of those people were doing their best to truthfully describe what they had heard, and in reality, they gave the locus of echoes of the shots, and not the location of the source? At least one witness was misquoted. (See Part II.)
In contrast to those well-intentioned beliefs, several people, witnesses, actually saw the rifle pointed from the window in the School Book Depository. Remember, too, that everyone was focusing their attention on the President who, by the time of the shots, had passed the assassin's lair. The assassin was above and behind the center of attention. However, witnesses heard the shots, looked around and found the shooter. At the same time, while everyone (including several officers) either was or had just finished looking at the railroad overpass and the area of the grassy knoll, they saw nothing.
Isn't it strange that an assassin firing from a concealed position up on the sixth floor and inside a building was observed by several people, but the supposed second assassin, comparatively out in the open and in front of the action in the line of sight of many bystanders and photographers, was not seen before, during or after by a single living soul?
The Committee Report, on page 90, speaks more clearly with regard to witness reliability in citing experiments conducted for BBN by Dr. David Green.
Two trained observers who knew that test shots would be fired, as well as approximately when and from where, could not be exact in stating their observations. According to the Report, "Their comments, in short, frequently reflected ambiguity as to the origin of the shots, indicating that the gunfire from the grassy knoll often did not sound very different from the shots fired from the book depository."
Doesn't that tend to confirm the previous suggestion that however well-meaning they were, the bystanders who thought they had heard the assassin's "shots" from the grassy knoll were actually hearing shots from the book depository, and echoes from the knoll?
Had the Committee noted on a map of Dealey Plaza the positions of those bystanders who referred to the grassy knoll, the Committee would have discovered that the bystanders were in positions exposing them to the amphitheater effect of the bow-shaped pavilion on the knoll. Their positions exposed them to an ideal echo situation. Apparently the Committee didn't consider those observers' positions as being relative to what they heard.
On page 73, the Committee Report refers to Weiss and Aschkenasy(2) "pinpointing" locations, and while early impulses in pattern three matched those on the tape quite well, later impulses in the pattern did not. Then, realizing that a microphone in the motorcade would not be stationary while receiving the echoes, they included in their calculations the assumption of an 11 MPH speed during a three-tenths of a second period. This would move the microphone about 5 feet and permitted a match of both early and late impulses. This is an interesting move, but it is absolutely incorrect for two reasons.
First, the Report makes several references to" 11 MPH," which represents the approximate average speed of the President's limousine as calibrated by the Zapruder film; it is in no way representative of anything else. A motorcade is not linked together like coaches in a train. Chief Curry and motorcycles in front of the limousine were stopped or stopping. Behind the limousine, the follow up car had to work its way through the crowd that encroached on the President.
Next, the Vice President's limousine slowed to a stop or near stop at Elm Street. Still further behind, vehicles which had just made their way slowly off Main onto Houston were now slowing and stopping again. In other words, 11 MPH relates only to the President's limousine and to an average, not a constant speed. Other vehicles, especially those on Houston, were barely moving if not stopped. Therefore, three-tenths of a second would not give the five feet necessary for a match up unless the open mike was in the limousine.
Second, since the Committee determined for their purposes that the microphone was "open" on Officer H. B. McLain's motorcycle, let's consider McLain's motorcycle movements singularly. McLain and others estimated the motorcade speed on Houston as no more than 2 or 3 MPH, when they were moving. Actually, at the time McLain heard the first shot, he was stopped. He cannot say unequivocally that he heard the first shot as hearing only one; he can't say which one it was. His assumption is that he heard the first shot because he saw pigeons flushed from the roof of the book depository. He watched that phenomenon momentarily while remaining stopped. He waited, unaware that the President had been shot, moving out only after he heard Chief Curry's instruction to ". . . go to the hospital. . . ." (See Part II, Chapter Six for additional details regarding Officer McLain's observations.)
Whether one applies the first or the second set of circumstances, the five feet essential for a match-up just aren't there. Accordingly, neither is the match-up.
In considering what could cause such a noise if it were not a shot, Dr. Barger(3) "noted it had to be something capable of causing a very loud noise -- greater than a single firecracker . . ." (page 74)
Loudness refers to the dynamics of sound and is measured in decibels as opposed to the frequency or cycles per second as measured in hertz. Going back to page 67 of the Committee Report we understand that the sounds were inaudible, and now the discussion turns to a "very loud noise." Then, moving ahead to page 79 of the Report, while discussing the characteristics of motorcycle microphones, the Report states that "The sound of a rifle shot is so pronounced, however, that it would be picked up even if it originated considerably farther away from the microphone. . . ."
Since loudness and frequency are two separate measurements, exactly what was Dr. Barger considering, greater decibels, higher frequency or both? Were the loudness and frequency of the impulse patterns measured? What were their measurements?
In discussing N-waves and supersonic bullets, the Report states that ". . . most pistols -- except for some, such as a .44 magnum -- fire subsonic bullets."
In a limited sense, the above is correct. However, what is not said is more correct. While "most" pistols will fire a subsonic bullet, many (with no idea of what proportion of all pistols) will also fire supersonic bullets.
More correctly, one must consider muzzle velocity. Typically, muzzle velocities are measured at the muzzle, and at certain distances down range such as 50 yards, 100 yards, etc. Next, one must consider the powder-bullet combination which produces a subsonic velocity when fired. For example, a certain cartridge, say a typical .38 caliber, might have a powder-bullet combination which produces a subsonic velocity when fired. Another .38 cartridge might have a powder-bullet combination which produces a supersonic velocity when fired. Next, one must consider each pistol separately. A given pistol is designed to accommodate "up to" certain loads. In addition, each pistol has a safety factor built into it so that it will not explode and injure its user if too "hot" a load is inadvertently fired.
If the safety margin is not exceeded too often or by too great a load, that pistol can fire a bullet of greater muzzle velocity than that which is considered appropriate. While this is not a wise practice, it is possible to fire bullets with supersonic muzzle velocities from any number of hand guns. Since "sonic" refers to a speed of approximately 741 MPH at sea level, a muzzle velocity greater than 1086.799 feet per second is supersonic.
Also, the Committee Report (page 75) states that there is an ". . . 80 per cent chance that the N-wave was caused by a supersonic bullet."
Some natural questions are, What else could they represent? Only bullets? Was anything else tested or even considered? Were the investigators so anxious to reach a foregone conclusion that they used selective validation? Did they construct validity to support a preconceived idea?
Footnote 11, page 74 of the Committee Report, describes the motorcycle as being 120' behind the presidential limousine when the shots were fired, adding that this ". . . put shots one and two from the book depository, as well as shot three from the grassy knoll, in front of the motorcycle windshield." (Emphasis added.) This point was crucial to the acoustical examiner's theory in explaining certain distortions which they concluded through tests were caused by the shot sounds passing through the motorcycle's windshield before they were recorded. The Report states that ". . . their predictions confirmed by the tape, indicated further that the microphone was mounted on a motorcycle in Dealey Plaza and that it had transmitted the sounds of the shots fired during the assassination."
Testimony before the Committee and published accounts of media personnel interviews with acoustic examiners placed significance on the point that the acoustics experts had committed themselves to pinpointing exactly where the motorcycle with the open mike would be before they knew for sure they could produce corroborating evidence.
This was a most courageous and exceedingly inaccurate postulation.
For the sounds of shots one and two, from the book depository, to have passed through the windshield, McLain's motorcycle would have to be traveling north on Houston approaching Elm. As a matter of fact, he was there, on Houston Street approximately 100' south of Elm, with McLain noting the flurry of the pigeons on top of the seven-story building. According to the Committee's data, these shots occurred at 12:30:47, :48.6, and :55.3 p.m.
By shot three, the motorcycle would have to have made it 100' to the corner through a crowd of scrambling people and completed an acute turn in time to be headed west on Elm, facing the grassy knoll in only 6 seconds! Egad, what skillfully reckless driving! Especially since McLain, the suspected motorcycle officer, was stopped at the time. To the contrary, McLain did not depart his northbound position on Houston until all three shots had been fired. He watched Secret Service Agent Clinton J. Hill mount the rear of President Kennedy's limousine, after the last shot had been fired. He observed that through an opening in an ornamental wall on Houston. The full frames of the Zapruder film do not show McLain at the corner at the time of the first and second shots. Neither does James Altgen's Associated Press photograph show McLain at the intersection. This is because McLain was where he said he was, back on Houston Street until all of the shots had been fired.
Since the experts and counsel were willing to declare that the accurate pinpoint positioning of the motorcycle further indicated that the motorcycle with the open mike was in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination, will they now, since their calculations are obviously incorrect, acknowledge that it was not?
On page 76, the Committee Report states that investigators checked but found no record of McLain transmitting a message on Channel 2; that if he had, it could not have been his radio.
It's impossible to judge whether this is simply an effort at demonstrating some form of open-minded objectivity, or an attempt to cause the reader to assume a corollary that since he had not used his Channel 2, he must have been on Channel 1.
Either way it is as ridiculous a statement as it is inaccurate. Channel changes can be made with the proverbial flick of the wrist.
More important in considering whether McLain was monitoring Channel 1 or Channel 2 is logic and probability.
The motorcade assignment was a major exercise and one of tremendous importance. Extensive preparation with emphasis on execution preceded the assignment.
In addition to preparations, numerous radio instructions were given to motorcade officers, instructions to move out on leaving Love Field, as well as those given all along the route. Officers heard and complied with those instructions, McLain included.
Had McLain been on Channel 1, he would have listened to some 39 minutes of totally unrelated radio traffic prior to his microphone sticking. In addition, he would have heard absolutely nothing that he had been trained, prepared and expecting to hear -- vital motorcade instructions from Chief Curry for the conduct of the motorcade. While it is possible that even the most expert motorcycle officer could make an initial mistake in channel selection, how long would one logically expect it to take even an ordinarily competent officer to realize that he wasn't tuned in correctly.
During McLain's appearance before the Committee, Committee counsel asked whether McLain could have heard Channel 2 orders and radio traffic over someone else's radio, and McLain agreed that it was possible. He did not mention that no radio was near enough to be overheard and that the crowd noise was so great that one could barely hear his own radio. Upon his return to Dallas, and in response to the questions, "Was the statement correct with regard to what happened? Do you believe that you were actually monitoring Channel 1 but listening to someone else's Channel 2?" McLain said that this is not what happened. When asked why he had testified as he had, he responded that counsel had only asked whether it was possible, and he had to admit that it was possible -- that they had not asked him whether it was probable.
This opened another perspective. The Committee staff used one of the oldest tricks in the book on McLain, and he fell for it because as a trained officer he had been schooled in listening to the attorney, in listening to the question, and in not volunteering unsolicited statements. Beside this, he trusted them. They were professionals. They were representing the government in a serious undertaking. They were trustworthy. They would do him no mischief.
They carefully calculated their intended direction, then carefully worded their questions to elicit the desired answers. For example, "It is possible that . . . ?" Unless it is wholly impossible, the only truthful answer would be "yes." He was not asked to relate to probabilities. McLain was carefully coached into giving answers which supported counsel's preconceived positions. By limiting the range of information available to him, they allowed McLain to consider only that material which they had selected. With this strategy, they duped him into their plot. Being a conscientious officer, he cooperated fully.
However, on his return to Dallas, he was permitted a private review of the tapes of both channels for the full period of the motorcade. After listening to the recordings he was asked one simple question, "Well, Mac, what do you think?"
His instant, uncoached and unrehearsed answer was, "Man, there's no way that could have been my mike stuck open!" He went on to qualify his response with supporting examples such as his recall of instructions and comments on Channel 2, his total lack of recognition of anything on Channel 1, the absence of siren sounds when the motorcade started to Parkland Hospital, and that when siren sounds did appear, they seemed to be passing the open mike on a unit standing still. He also noted that the motorcycle was running too fast for the motorcade, but that when they started the speedy trip to the hospital, the suspect motorcycle slowed down to a moderate speed and to an idle, and that there was a total absence of crowd on the tapes.
These spontaneous observations were McLain's free choice when given an opportunity for choice. When asked what effect his having heard the same tapes would have had on his testimony, had he been allowed to hear them before testifying, he said that he would have responded in an entirely different manner. More specifically, his response would have been a flat denial that it was in any way possible for it to have been his microphone that was "stuck open."
In the interest of objectivity and freedom of expression, the news media were informed that McLain was listening to the recordings, and press conferences began as soon as he finished listening. Needless to say, they were as concerned as we were not only with what he had to say but the freedom with which he was allowed to speak.
When Committee counsel learned through the media that they had lost a key witness, a situation which threatened their position, they turned on him, crediting him with a ". . . rusty memory. . . ."(4) It should be noted that the official life of the Committee had by then ended. They could no longer hold sessions and present witnesses. But they did have a decision to reach and a report to write. The Committee staff made no known effort to resolve the challenges in forum with anyone who could give them firsthand information. Instead, they made feeble and foolish attempts to explain away the challenges with any counter argument that sounded right. Perhaps this will prove to be their undoing.
Next, let's consider some of the Committee staffs discussion and explanation of some points of controversy. First, they discussed on page 77 and 78 of their Report why the sound of the sirens did not appear on the tapes until almost two minutes after the assassination, and why they are heard only briefly.
The Report suggests that since the microphone was thought by others to be on a motorcycle "on Stemmons," it was noted that McLain was on Stemmons when going to Parkland Hospital. This is an obvious attempt to avoid the truth. McLain entered on to Stemmons Freeway after 12:31, Channel 1 time, at which time he was traveling between 60 and 80 MPH. He was on Stemmons for just about one minute. At the same time, the engine on he motorcycle with the open mike had slowed down to a moderate speed and idle . . . hardly the same as 60 to 80 MPH. It is beyond belief that competent investigators would fail to recognize that difference.
Next, the Report suggests the possibility that the reason the sirens begin to appear amost two minutes after the motorcade left Dealey Plaza en route to the hospital was because McLain either forgot or didn't feel a need to use his own siren, and that the sirens are heard only when McLain drew close enough to pick up the sirens of the other motorcade vehicles.
Then, as an alternate "explain away" they suggest that the sirens begin to appear and then fade away for yet another reason. They decided that McLain didn't exit from Dealey Plaza promptly after the motorcade, but that he lingered a while. Then, having left later, the appearance of the sirens indicate his having caught up with the others. To explain why the sirens then fade away, the Report suggests that McLain either passed them up or fell back, unable to keep up.
If those reasons aren't enough to inform, convince or confuse, the Committee offered mother "explain away." Maybe McLain reached the motorcade and picked up their sirens just as they were turning their sirens down on arriving at the hospital.
These notions are so foolish it is embarrassing to dignify them with discussion . . . but they must be refuted as though any of them had an iota of merit.
You don't "forget" or decide not to use your siren. When exceeding the lawful speed, an officer is required to exercise reasonable precautions. The mere fact that one is an officer, on duty and on an emergency assignment does not relieve the officer of civil and criminal liability in the event of culpability in an accident. In an emergency situation an officer doesn't add up and subtract sirens in an effort to decide what to do . . . he does what he has been trained to do, and is required by operating rules to do. He uses his siren instinctively. McLain has always stated that he used his siren.
McLain left Dealey Plaza in relation to his position in the motorcade, and this was but a few seconds after the President's limousine departed. Had he lingered long enough to have allowed the lead elements a 15-20 second head start, it would have been physically impossible for him to have caught the others in approximately two minutes. The same applies to his passing them. As for his falling back, he didn't as he was among the first officers to arrive at Parkland Hospital, not by his say-so, but by his conduct at the hospital such as assisting Mrs. Kennedy while President Kennedy was removed from his limousine.
As for the last suggestion, either the staff knows absolutely nothing about sirens or they did not seek out qualified advice before making an absurd suggestion. You can't turn a siren "down." It's either on or it's off! Besides, how could they expect a motorcade to travel some three and one third miles from Dealey Plaza to Parkland Hospital in just under two minutes? That would be a 100 MPH trip on motorcycles which could hardly travel more than 85 to 90 MPH under ideal conditions on a good straightaway!
In the Committee's Appendix to Hearings, Volume VIII, page 112, paragraph 6.2, in discussing the sound of the sirens on the tape, BBN reported that "The effect is not that of a microphone being carried on a vehicle with a wailing siren, but rather of many vehicles with sirens coming and going around the microphone." This is correct! Why the contradictions? Why did they impeach their own expert witness and conjure up dishonest foolishness?
At approximately 12:31:20 p.m., Channel 1 time, (12:30:02.3 p.m. by the Committee Report) the tape recorded the single tone of a carillon or large bell, tolled in the background.
The Committee would explain away the sound of the bell on the tape in less numerous but equally implausible terms. On page 78, the Report simply declares that, "The logical explanation is that the dispatch tape contains the transmission of two or more radios."
Is it logical simply because they declare that it is? For this to have been correct, the reader must visualize and accept the following. The police have an "open mike" which has almost crippled their Channel 1 communications. Next, they have an officer somewhere who for no reason keyed his mike, said absolutely nothing, but held the mike open during one tone of the bell. Then, just as mysteriously as he started, he closed his mike, saying nothing. Is it really "logical" to assume that an officer would key his mike under such conditions only to add to the confusion?
There is a better explanation, but one which has thus far escaped conclusive proof. This is recollection of but no identification of a group which brought a replica of the Liberty Bell, mounted on a trailer, to the Trade Mart. At the risk of being too free with assumptions, is it too much to suppose that some passerby yielded to temptation and gave that bell a testing thump?
With regard to the absence of crowd noises which should have been on the tape, the Report states (page 79) that motorcycle radios were equipped with directional microphones designed to transmit only very loud sounds. That statement is incorrect.
More accurately, in 1963 the department used both carbon mikes and dynamic mikes. These are similar in quality to regular telephone equipment and would pick up sounds with same quality as regular telephone equipment. They were definitely not directional; nor were they "noise canceling" mikes.
Curiously, the Committee were suspicious of an independent radio station's recording because ". . . appropriate background noise was not present." (Report, page 66.) It would seem that they, too, expected background noise before it became necessary to explain its absence.
As the motorcade eased its way through the downtown area, the sidewalks overflowed into the streets while added numbers leaned out of windows and climbed posts in an effort to see President Kennedy. At no time while navigating through the central business district was any member of the motorcycle escort more than five feet from these screaming masses.
The escort often proceeded at "walking speed" with engines running at idle and not at the speed of the engine on the recording. Occasionally, officers would rev-up their engines in a short burst and retard the spark. That technique makes the engine momentarily noisy in an effort to attract the crowd's attention so they can be motioned back. The open mike recorded no such maneuver, only the even sound of an engine running approximately 30 MPH.
The spectators were so close that motorcycle handlebars occasionally bumped them. Yet the Committee Report simply states that there was no crowd noise because the (nonexistent) directional microphones couldn't pick up the noise. To the contrary, the microphones then in use, being quite similar to a telephone hand-set would pick up and transmit on the exact same order that a telephone would under the same circumstances. The same equipment had recorded background noise before the shots were fired. Background noises are clearly present with Chief Curry's transmissions in the downtown area, and he was in an enclosed sedan, not an open motorcycle. Further, during the August, 1978 firing tests, similar radio equipment recorded every shot very distinctly.
The Committee's efforts at denial amount to professional dishonesty and utter nonsense. But the absence of the crowd noise had to be explained in some manner. Why wasn't the truth determined by a simple test and the results published?
On page 78, the Committee writer made a profound observation that ". . . to contend that the microphone was elsewhere carries with it the burden of explaining what appears on the tape." Further, that ". . . those who contend it was not in Dealey Plaza must explain the sounds that indicate it was." This is absolute truth. Why wasn't the contention pursued?
To make such explanation would have been a privilege, not a burden. From the first day the Committee counsel suggested the recording might have been in Dealey Plaza and might have recorded the assassin's shots, that opportunity was sought. And that opportunity is what counsel would not grant. Why? If the Committee truly believed that the burden of explanation existed, why did counsel refuse to permit that explanation? If they had so permitted, much misinformation could have been avoided. Much time, confusion and taxpayer money could have been saved.
This writing accomplishes both of those challenges: An explanation as to why the open microphone was not in Dealey Plaza; and why it was elsewhere, namely, at the Trade Mart, two miles away. Further, there is nothing on the recording to suggest the open microphone was in Dealey Plaza other than the imagination or wishful thinking of some Committee staff.
On page 84, the Report acknowledges that "scientifically, the evidence of the second gunman was established only by the acoustical study, but its basic validity was corroborated or independently substantiated by various other projects." Well, if they say so . . . but one must wonder, by what other projects? In succeeding pages the Committee considered photographic studies and "witness" testimony but acknowledge that the results were inconclusive. So where is the "corroboration" or "substantiation?"
To the contrary, the Report makes use of negative logic. For example, on page 87, the Report states, "None of the scientific evidence . . . was inconsistent with the acoustical evidence . . ." This seems to say that if something is not inconsistent, it must be consistent. This form of reasoning does not even meet the criteria for freshman-level research methodology. One is not necessarily the corollary of the other. For instance, data might be inaccurate, inconclusive or irrelevant. Data which leads to a dead-end validates, corroborates or independently substantiates exactly nothing.
With further regard to witness testimony, the Report on page 84 states, "There was considerable witness testimony, as well as a large body of critical literature that indicated the grassy knoll as a source of gunshots." (Once again, the plural, gunshots.) Several questions arise for the serious reader's consideration. How many constitutes "considerable?" And "witnesses" who were witnesses to what? How many constitute "a large body?" And who is to differentiate between those who are knowledgeable and qualified writers as opposed to sensation-seekers and crack-pots? These questions are not posed as sarcastic humor. They are serious questions regarding terms which should not be used carelessly.
As mentioned previously, a witness must see or have factual knowledge. One who only thinks or supposes is not a witness. The only reason the grassy knoll received any attention as a shooter-site was because some bystanders were under the impression that the shots had come from that general direction, with Mr. S. M. Holland being the principal exception. Mr. Holland was positive that he saw a puff of smoke come from under certain trees the grassy knoll, that he heard four sounds he presumed to be shots, and that the sound from the grassy knoll was not as loud as the three shot-sounds from the other direction.
It seems noteworthy that the Report gives preferential treatment to only that part of Mr. Holland's statement which served the Committee's purpose. However, in the Supplemental References to Section B, page 606, Reference 155, in association with another topic, the Report casually mentions that Mr. Holland's entire statement had some inaccuracies which caused Congressman Edgar(5) to question Mr. Holland's credibility. Why did the Committee shunt to page 606 of the supplements their unfavorable comments regarding a key witness? Was this an effort to halo the vital part of otherwise shaky testimony?
With further attention to Reference 155, why did the Committee Report relegate all reference to the testimony of Mr. Emmett Joseph Hudson to back page status? Mr. Hudson had vital information but, unfortunately, it was not what the Committee wanted.
Let's deal with Mr. Holland's information first. After giving very concise information in careful detail, he then said that an agent in the President's limousine pointed a machine gun toward the grassy knoll.(6) Special Agent George W. Hickey Jr., in his report following the assassination stated that he, ". . . picked up the AR 15 rifle, cocked and loaded it, and turned to the rear." (Emphasis added - Warren Commission Exhibit 1024.) Film documentation proved the accuracy of that part of Mr. Holland's statement. It was useful for the Committee's purpose to suggest through the reference "pointed the machine gun toward the grassy knoll" that the agent had a target on the knoll. This was not the case, and Mr. Holland denied that it was his intention to suggest that it was.
Also, Mr. Holland described a puff of smoke coming from under some trees on the knoll. As touched upon in the Committee's Report, there was question as to whether one shot containing smokeless powder would produce a "puff of smoke." In the concluding paragraph of Reference 155, page 606, the Report states that their firearms panel explained that, ". . . modern weapons do in fact emit smoke when fired." That statement is correct to a point but the explanation stopped short of complete accuracy. Several significant features should be considered. First, Mr. Holland's conclusion points toward a subsonic or a low velocity cartridge as being fired from the knoll. ("Not as loud.") The smaller the powder charge in a shell casing, the less likely there would be a "puff of smoke" of sufficient volume to be readily spotted. Second, weather and climatic conditions would affect the presence and behavior of any smoke produced by a shot. This apparently was not considered by the experts. Third, the number of shots fired would have a bearing on the presence of smoke. A single shot, regardless of its size, would produce a modicum of smoke, if any. If there was a noticeable wind, the smoke would be dissipated almost immediately. If calm, the smoke would tend to become stratified rather than become a "puff. " The wind at the time of the assassination was strong and gusting. A police sergeant who observed some smoke in the vicinity of the overpass described it as originating after the shooting, and of far too much volume to have originated from a gunshot. Also, during the August, 1978 tests, numerous shots were fired for acoustical testing. No "puffs of smoke" were noted even though it was a calm, warm, dry day.
Next, consider Mr. Holland's immediate response. He was standing but a few feet from a Dallas Police Officer. If he believed he had just seen the President of the United States shot by someone firing from a position immediately to his left foreground some 200 feet distant, why didn't he say something to the officer? It would seem to be a most natural reaction o say something like, "Officer, did you see that?" or some such exclamation. It would have been a simple matter for the officer to have rushed to the location and to determine whether anything had happened there. As it was, Mr. Holland did not apprise the officer of his observation, nor did the officer, looking in the same direction, see the same thing that Mr. Holland saw. They did go to the rear of the fence but observed nothing consistent with an assassin fleeing his act.
The reader must decide for himself just how much weight Mr. Holland's entire testimony deserves.
Next, let's deal with Mr. Hudson's information. Mr. Hudson was just a few feet in front of and below the alleged assassin's position on the knoll, the only person known to have been that close. Because Mr. Hudson's choice of words permitted an alternate assumption with regard to meaning, the Committee assumed he meant the alternate interpretation and that he was coached into saying that the shots came from the direction of the Book Depository.
The Committee paid notice to what Mr. Hudson said but not to his entire meaning. While looking down toward Elm Street and the motorcade, the book depository was to his left rear. As he related orally to the shots coming from behind, he indicated off to his left rear. If there was a shooter on the knoll, and only a few feet directly behind Mr. Hudson, how could he have failed to notice? The truth is, he didn't. He heard the shots. He heard three shots, and they came from the direction of the Book Depository just as he testified. Had they come from the knoll, why wouldn't everyone (something like 4 out of 178) who thought shots had been fired from the grassy knoll thought shots -- not just one shot -- had been fired?
Several officers were near to and in sight of the knoll. They are still positive that not one single shot originated on the knoll. To the contrary, they are unanimous in their observations that all 3 shots (3 not 4) came from the general direction of the Book Depository. And these are veteran officers, some of whom are veterans of military service as well, and not strangers to gunfire.
Most notable of these officers was the motorcade sergeant who was paused along the south curb of Elm Street within 60' of the presumed grassy knoll position. Immediately before the shots were fired he had completed a visual sweep of the overpass and the grassy knoll, carefully noting the people he saw. He saw nothing unusual, and no one who appeared in a position to or getting into a position to fire at President Kennedy. Finishing his sweep from left to right his eyes fell on the President at the same instant the first shot was fired. He then heard and observed the results of the second and third shots.
An officer immediately to the right rear of the President's limousine stopped his motorcycle just after he had made the same visual sweep of the overpass and the grassy knoll. The same instant he looked at the President he too heard and observed the results of the shots.
Just as the sergeant is positive that none of the shots came from behind him, the second officer is positive that all three shots came from behind his position. The Committee investigators knew this and ignored it. Why?
With reference to Mr. Abraham Zapruder's account of the effects the shots had on him (Committee Report, page 89), he said that he described one shot as more pronounced than the others. This reaction was previously considered by the Report in discussing "blur analysis" (Committee Report, page 80) and "jiggle analysis panning errors" (Committee Report, page 83). The Report concluded that Mr. Zapruder's differing reaction to the shots was "consistent" with shots from the building as opposed to the knoll. Since no physical law compels or denies this, perhaps it is as valid a conclusion as some of the others.
However, while we are making assumptions, there is another one which is at least equally if not more consistent. An unsuspecting observer usually has a more pronounced reaction to the first startling stimulus than he does to any subsequent stimulus, with the degree of reaction diminishing in relation to degree of surprise, the frequency, the suddenness and number of following stimuli as well as personal factors. Let's look at an example of this in simple language. Have you ever been in an audience when a loud noise such as a shout startled you from your concentration, then a second, and perhaps a third loud shout recurs? Remember he first surprise shocked your senses, but the next and any immediately following had a less shocking effect? Consider this theory as well as the Report's conclusion and decide for yourself. Was Mr. Zapruder's reaction a product of noise from two sources, or simply a diminished reaction because the second and third shots were less shocking to his surprised nervous system than was the first? Consider also the numbing effect of what Mr. Zapruder was observing through the view finder on his movie camera. A "ringside seat" in the destruction of a human being is an awesome and soul-shaking experience.
Let's return to the information developed by Dr. David M. Green, a consultant to Bolt Barenek and Newman Inc., as discussed on page 90 of the Committee Report. Dr. Green conducted tests wherein two trained observers knew shots would be fired, approximately when, and from where. However, their ability to identify the origin of the shots was only 82% in overall agreement. Their descriptions as to locus were phrased with equivocations indicating uncertainty.
Now, let's connect their ambiguity to those bystanders and witnesses who were positive the shots came from the Book Depository. If trained and waiting observers could not be sure, consider the probability of accurate recall by people who were not expecting shots, but who were concentrating on the President. Not one shred of evidence has ever been found which puts a shooter on the knoll. However, the rifle and shells as well as the wrapping paper which concealed the rifle's presence were found near where witnesses had seen the assassin's rifle pointing from the window and toward the president.
Considering the fallibility of witnesses, shouldn't the Committee have reflected on their own data and responded to it in a more appropriate manner? After all, those who thought the grassy knoll could have been the shooting site generally believed that all shots had originated from that same point. The Committee were willing to place weight on these observers, but only to a limited degree. They believed them for one shot and no more. That demonstrates a profound confidence in their witnesses. More so, it demonstrates a willingness to select validity. In their zeal to put a shooter on the grassy knoll, they selected from those elements which supported the notion and conveniently dismissed, if not actually ignored, anything which suggested differently. The search for anything that would place and support a shooter on the grassy knoll became somewhat a quest for the Holy Grail.
Why did the Committee choose to ignore Dr. Green's conclusions?
First, it is hard to believe a rifle was fired from the knoll. Such a shot would be extremely loud, even if silenced, and it would be hard to imagine anyone in the vicinity of the knoll missing such an event . . .In summarizing the evidence on page 93, the Report states, "The Committee considered all other evidence available to evaluate the scientific analysis."
Finally, if one accepts the hypothesis that a marksman fired from the knoll and that other shots were fired from some other location, then it seems most unlikely that only 4 of 178 witnesses would report a single location as the origin of the shots . . . a second shot from a different location should be distinctive and different enough to cause more than four witnesses to report multiple origins for the shots.
(Excerpt from Appendix to Hearings, Volume VIII, pp 150, 151.)
You would have to know just what is meant by "considered" and "evidence" to estimate the merit of that statement. As indicated throughout this chapter, much more information was available to them. Unfortunately, they failed to give the information due and proper regard. The truth was available, but either they could or would not recognize it.
On the day the public was informed as to the possibility of the "open mike" being in Dealey Plaza, and that it might have recorded the shots, the Committee investigators then in Dallas were told that there was no possibility of that being correct, and why. The response was, "We'll get back to you." However, instead of doing so, the staff pursued a course which seemed to indicate that they didn't want to know why the open mike could not have been in Dealey Plaza. Instead, they set out on their unwavering course to prove that it was.
It remained for the public news media to sense that something was being ignored. media then started to ask probing questions. It is anyone's guess as to what impact the Report would have had on the public had the media not assumed the initiative and done what the Committee should have done -- resolve the issue rather than alibi it to death. The media investigators and reporters who would not buy their feeble excuses and explanations deserve the credit for neutralizing the public impact of the Committee Report.
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1. Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination with an 8mm movie camera from a position on the grassy knoll, north of the motorcade, and barely 35' east of, and almost in the line of fire of, the Committee's presumed second shooter's position.
2. Professors Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy, Queens College of the City of New York.
3. Dr. James E. Barger, Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc., Cambridge, Mass.
4. Goldman, Shannon, Camper and Donosky, "Rush to Judgment," Newsweek, (January 15, 1979), page 7.
5. Representative Robert W. Edgar, Democrat, Pennsylvania, Member, Select Committee on Assassinations.
6. The Controversy, a probe recording, produced by Lawrence Schiller, recorded by Capitol Records Inc.
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