The United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations
was established in 1976 to investigate the John F. Kennedy assassination
and the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination
. The Committee investigated until 1978, and in 1979 issued its final report, concluding that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald
, probably as a result of a conspiracy
. The members of this probable conspiracy were not identified. However, the committee noted that it believed that the conspiracy did not include the governments of the Soviet Union
, nor the FBI
, the CIA
, or the Secret Service
. It also stated it did not believe the conspiracy was organized by any organized crime
group, nor any anti-Castro
group, but that it could not rule out individual members of either of those groups acting together.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations suffered from being conducted mostly in secret, and then issuing a public report with much of its evidence kept secret. In 1992, Congress passed legislation to collect and open up all the evidence relating to Kennedy's death, and created the Assassination Records Review Board to further that goal.
The HSCA was a followup to the Hart-Schweiker and Church Committee
hearings that had revealed CIA
ties to other assassinations and assassination attempts. The HSCA resulted from public demands following hundreds of books, magazine articles, and video documentaries completed by private citizens and professional investigators since 1963 and the public outcry after the Zapruder film
was first shown in motion on TV in March 1975
after having been stored by Life
magazine out of view of the public for almost twelve years.
- Thomas N. Downing, (Virginia) First Chairman
- Louis Stokes, (Ohio), Second Chairman
- L. Richardson Preyer, (North Carolina)
- Walter E. Fauntroy, (District of Columbia)
- Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, (California)
- Christopher Dodd, (Connecticut)
- Harold Ford, Sr., (Tennessee)
- Floyd Fithian, (Indiana)
- Robert W. Edgar, (Pennsylvania)
- Samuel L. Devine, (Ohio)
- Stewart McKinney, (Connecticut)
- Charles Thone, (Nebraska)
- Harold S. Sawyer, (Michigan)
- G. Robert Blakey was Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations. After completing his work on the HSCA, Blakey went on to become the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, and is considered the foremost expert on RICO.
Conclusions regarding the King assassination
On the King assassination, the Committee concluded in its report that he was killed by one rifle shot from James Earl Ray
, that "there is a likelihood" that this was the result of a conspiracy, and that no U.S. government agency was part of this conspiracy.
Conclusions regarding the JFK assassination
The HSCA concluded in its 1979 report that (emphasis added
- Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President.
- Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.
Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfilment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not receive adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination was conducted. The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. the conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Soviet Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Cuban Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
The Committee further concluded that it was probable that:
- four shots were fired
- the third shot came from a second assassin located on the grassy knoll, but missed.
The HSCA agreed with the single bullet theory, but concluded that it occurred at a time point during the assassination that differed from any of the several time points the Warren Commission theorized it occurred.
The Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, and the Warren Commission were all criticized for deficient job performance in their subsequent investigations, deficient in revealing to the Warren Commission information available in 1964, and the Secret Service was called deficient in their protection of the President.
In particular, the various investigations performed by the U.S. government were faulted for insufficient consideration of the possibility of a conspiracy in each case. The Committee in its report also made recommendations for legislative and administrative improvements, including making some assassinations Federal crimes.
The Chief Counsel of the Committee later changed his views that the CIA was being cooperative and forthcoming with the investigation when he learned that the CIA's special liaison to the Committee researchers, George Joannides, was actually involved with some of the organizations that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved with in the months leading up to the assassination, including an anti-Castro group, the DRE, which was linked to the CIA, where the liaison, Joannides, worked in 1963. Chief Counsel Blakey later stated that Joannides, instead, should have been interviewed by the Committee, rather than serving as a gatekeeper to the CIA's evidence and files regarding the assassination. He further disregarded and suspected all the CIA's statements and representations to the Committee, accusing it of obstruction of justice.
Criticisms and further research
The sole acoustic evidence relied on by the committee's experts to support its theory of a fourth gunshot (and a gunman on the grassy knoll) in the JFK assassination, was a Dictabelt recording
alleged to be from a stuck transmitter on a police motorcycle in Dealey Plaza during the assassination. After the committee finished its work, however, an amateur researcher listened to the recording and discovered faint crosstalk of transmissions from another police radio channel known to have been made a minute after
the assassination. This was supported by the National Academy of Science
Further, the Dallas motorcycle policeman thought to be the source of the sounds followed the motorcade to the hospital at high speed, his siren blaring, immediately after the shots were fired. Yet the recording is of a mostly idling motorcycle, eventually determined to have been at JFK's destination, the Trade Mart, miles from Dealey Plaza.
In 2001, this attack on the Committee's acoustic evidence was rebutted in a Science and Justice article written by D.B. Thomas, a government scientist and JFK assassination researcher. He concluded the HSCA finding of a second shooter was correct and that the NAS panel's study was flawed. Thomas surmises that the Dictaphone needle jumped and created an overdub on Channel One.
A majority of witnesses for whom we have testimony on the source of the shots said they came from the direction of the Depository. However, many witnesses thought the shots came from the direction of the Knoll. Significantly, only five witnesses (from a total of over a hundred) thought the shots came simultaneously from two directions.
The Mitrokhin Archive--The KGB in Europe and the West, by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, documents extensive manipulation by the KGB in creating and fostering conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination. The origin of the infamous forged letter, purported to be from Oswald to E. Howard Hunt, remained inconclusive in the final opinion of the Committee, leaving, in the words of Hunt, "...an article of faith that I had some role in the Kennedy assassination."