Why Was the ARRB Prohibited from Investigating the Kennedy Assassination?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
One of the interesting aspects of the John F. Kennedy assassination was the establishment of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. That was the board whose mission was to secure the release and disclosure of long-secret documents and records relating to the Kennedy assassination.
The national-security establishment — i.e., the U.S. military and the CIA — could not have been very pleased about the establishment of the ARRB. After all, keep in mind that when the Warren Report, whose 50th anniversary of publication is today, was issued, it was made clear that records relating to the assassination would be kept sequestered for 75 years. Many of the pertinent secret records and documents were in the possession of the U.S. military and the CIA.
Imagine that: A supposed lone nut, with no apparent motive, supposedly fires at the president and kills him and yet “national security” requires that Pentagon and CIA records relating to the assassination and aftermath be kept secret. Does that make any sense?
There’s obviously a big problem here, which is this: While secrecy is not necessarily evidence of nefarious conduct, it is entirely consistent with nefarious conduct, including a cover-up of a crime.
When many of the records were ultimately released in the 1990s, thanks to the ARRB, nothing happened. That is, the United States didn’t fall into the ocean. The federal government wasn’t taken over by the communists. Whatever threat to “national security” the release of all those records was supposed to pose, it never materialized. (Interesting, notwithstanding the ARRB, the CIA continues to steadfastly keep secret many of its JFK-related records, including those relating to CIA official George Joannides. See here.)
The secrecy was no different during the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) during the 1970s. That was the committee that was charged with reinvestigating the Kennedy assassination, given the widespread skepticism among the public about the Warren Report less than a decade after the assassination.
At the end of the HSCA, orders were once again issued that documents and records relating to the Kennedy assassination be kept sequestered, this time for 50 years.
Why? Why so much secrecy?
When Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, which posited that the U.S. national-security establishment had orchestrated Kennedy’s assassination, came out in 1991, there was a blurb at the end of the movie pointing out the extreme secrecy in the case. The inference was that the secrecy was a necessary component in the cover-up of the national-security establishment’s commission of the crime.
Stone’s movie and that particular blurb at the end of the movie caused an enormous public outcry demanding an end to all the secrecy. The result was the JFK Records Act of 1992 and the ARRB.
At the same time, however, Congress imposed a major constraint on the ARRB. Congress prohibited the ARRB from reinvestigating the Kennedy assassination. The ARRB’s charter limited it to doing nothing more than securing the disclosure and release of documents and records relating to the Kennedy assassination.
Now, ask yourself: What would have motivated them to have imposed that restriction on the ARRB? After all, what if some of those long-secret documents and records had been kept secret for nefarious purposes? What if “national security” was a sham rationale to enable a cover-up of a national-security crime? Wouldn’t a “no investigation” restriction serve to advance the interests of the malefactors?
Notwithstanding the “no-investigation” prohibition, the ARRB conducted extensive interviews and depositions, especially relating to the autopsy of John F. Kennedy. As Douglas P. Horne, who served on the staff of the ARRB, points out in the six-and-a-half-hour video presentation that The Future of Freedom has now published, long-secret documents and records relating to the autopsy provide a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence that points inexorably in the direction of a military cover-up of shots having hit Kennedy from the front, which, of course, contradicts the official version of events as posited in the Warren Report.
Because of the no-investigation restriction imposed on the ARRB, the ARRB was prohibited from following up with an investigation of matters that it was discovering in the records that had long been kept secret and that were supposed to be kept secret for several more decades.
For example, one mystery involved Kennedy’s brain.
Most everyone agrees that a large amount of Kennedy’s brain was blasted away by the shot that hit him in the head. Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the treating physicians at Parkland Hospital, estimated that 1/2 of the brain was missing. FBI agent Francis X. O’Neill, who was present at the autopsy, estimated the mission portion to be 1/3.
Yet, the official photograph in the record of what is supposed to be Kennedy’s brain shows a complete brain and, in fact, one that even weighs more than an average human brain.
That’s obviously just not possible. If a large portion — i.e., 1/3 to 1/2 — of the brain got blasted away, there is no way that it could regenerate itself into a complete brain, one that weighs more than an average human brain.
That leads to the obvious inference: the official photograph is not a photograph of Kennedy’s brain but rather the photograph of another brain. In fact, when FBI agent O’Neill was asked to identify the official photo of the brain that is in the record, he stated that the official photograph did not show the brain that he saw.
Why would military officials use a substitute brain for their official photograph? The most likely explanation is because the real brain would reflect the blow-out in the back of Kennedy’s head, as the witnesses in Dallas, including the Parkland Hospital physicians, said there was. A blowout in the back of the head would reflect an exit wound, which would mean that a shot was fired from the front. A frontal shot would obviously contradict the official version of events, which was that Kennedy was shot only from the rear. Securing a substitute brain would not have been a difficult thing to do given that Bethesda Naval Hospital was a teaching facility.
In any event, the ARRB was prohibited from investigating the matter because Congress had imposed the “no investigation” restriction on it.
The situation relating to the brain gets even more interesting. It turns out that the official photographer for the brain examination, John Stringer, stated that the brain was sectioned or cut up during the brain exam, which is standard procedure for an autopsy brain exam.
Yet, the official photograph of the brain shows it to be an intact brain, that is, one that hasn’t been cut up. When Stringer was asked by the ARRB to identify the official photographs of the brain, he stated that the official brain photographs in the Archives are on a different type of film from the type of film he used during the brain examination and, therefore, that the brain photos in the Archives could not be the ones he took.
The ARRB finally realized that there had been two separate brain exams, the first involving Kennedy’s brain and the second involving a brain that wasn’t Kennedy’s.
Yet, owing to the no-investigation constraint imposed on the ARRB by Congress, the ARRB was prohibited from investigating the matter.
For a fuller discussion of the ARRB’s discovery of the two brain examinations, see these two articles from the Washington Post:
Newly Released JFK Documents Raise Questions About Medical Evidence by Deb Riechmann (Associated Press, November 9, 1998.)
Archive Photos Not of JFK’s Brain, Concludes Aide to Review Board by George Lardner Jr. (Washington Post, November 10, 1998).
Also, see one of our two new e-books, The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob G. Hornberger, which delves further into the mystery of the two brain examinations. (Our other new e-book is JFK’s War with the National-Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas P. Horne. Both e-books are 99 cents each.)
Why did Congress refuse to permit the ARRB to conduct investigations if records that had been kept secret for decades warranted an investigation?
It’s a good question.