There is an old adage in the world of espionage, cloak and dagger, and covert operations: Trust no one, not even yourself.
Whether the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the work of one methodical gunman or a vast and complex conspiracy, foreign or domestic, it was by definition a covert operation, an act of espionage. The witness to the murder itself, as well as witnesses to other events possibly related to the crime, must therefore be regarded as intelligence assets. Anyone researching the assassination is essentially sticking their nose into the sinister world of espionage. That is what makes investigating the Kennedy assassination intriguing, but it’s also what makes it dangerous—not to life and limb mind you, but to your reputation as a researcher. That is because most theories, both lone gunman and conspiracy-oriented, are based around the testimony of witnesses.
Since the testimony of most witnesses in the case of the Kennedy assassination contradict the testimony of others, the only thing we know for a fact is that some people remember things the way they happened, and others are mistaken. Some people are lying about what they saw, some are telling the truth. Howard Brennan claims to have seen Oswald shooting from the sixth floor of the Texas School book depository, Jean Hill insists she saw someone else firing from the Grassy Knoll. But was Brennan close enough to the window to identify Oswald beyond the shadow of doubt, or could it have been someone matching his description? Could it have instead been someone like Jean Souetre, a French assassin who was in Dallas that afternoon and quickly spirited away by the CIA after the assassination? Or was it one of the multiple “Oswalds” others have insisted they saw in places Oswald himself could not possibly have been? As for Ms. Hill, her story has changed so many times over the years it is difficult to assess what exactly she saw that afternoon. Poor Hill was so traumatized by the event, she probably doesn’t even know what she saw.
Others are clearly lying about their knowledge of Oswald and the assassination. CIA operative and Watergate bungler Howard Hunt initially claimed to know nothing about the assassination, and stood by a fairly solid alibi. But then Hunt imparted an eerie deathbed confession to his son, claiming that he knew what had really happened that day in Dallas, and that others were involved. He was either lying in life, lying before death, or possibly both. What we’ll never know is whether he ever told the truth. Guy Bannister’s secretary Delphine Roberts initially denied she saw Lee Harvey Oswald at Bannister’s office, a hub of anti-communist activities in New Orleans. Years later she confessed through tears that she had indeed seen Oswald at Bannister’s base of operations for the famed Operation Mongoose. Like Hunt, Roberts was either lying then, or she’s lying now. Fear of being killed by possible conspirators would be a compelling reason to say silent about anything they knew. Prospects of fame and notoriety are equally compelling reasons to tell tall tales.
In the word of espionage and covert intelligence, operatives quickly learn to talk to everyone and yet trust no one. When an intelligence agency receives a defector, they will interrogate the subject whether or not they think it is a legitimate defection. After collecting what intelligence they can from this or any other asset, an operative must attempt to sort out facts from lies or disinformation. Even a legitimate defector or well-meaning intelligence source can provide false intelligence they believe to be true. Whoever is using this intelligence can rarely be sure who or what to trust, and most do their best to interpret this information, perhaps by thinking about what logically fits in with what they already know.
Therefore, one must analyze the testimony of JFK assassination witnesses, and others claiming to know about the case very critically. Industrious and thoughtful researchers on both sides of the picket fence—Warren Commission supporters and Conspiracy Theorists—have collected a huge mass of intelligence from witnesses and other assets over the years. The Warren Commission and House Select Committee have collected sworn testimony from countless witnesses. Numerous affidavits and other intriguing government documents have been released to the public over the years. This paper trail contains almost as much conflicting information as the oral history of the assassination—with differing accounts of the exact make and model of the murder weapon, and opposing opinions on how many shots were fired and from where. It is up to this and future generations of researchers to sort through this morass of testimony and text and attempt to identify what the truth is. Happy hunting, and remember: Trust No One!