By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Anson focuses at length on another of Stone's advisers for JFK, former Air Force Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, author of The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World. Prouty claims to have performed various intelligence jobs during his career and pushes the basic Grand-Cabal Theory found in Crossfire. He places particular emphasis (as does Marrs) on the existence of National Security Action Memorandum 263, drafted six weeks prior to the JFK assassination. "In it," Anson writes, "Kennedy formally endorsed a recommendation that one thousand U.S. advisers be pulled out by the end of 1963, with a complete withdrawal of advisers to follow no later than...1965. Once NSAM 263 was signed, said Prouty, Kennedy was, for all intents, a dead man." Shortly after the assassination, Grand Cabalists insist, LBJ approved another top-secret NSAM, which "presented a forthright plan for escalation." Anson says that Stone worked a Prouty-type character into the script (also known as Mr. X.), who Deep Throat-ishly tells Garrison about the plot's darkest aspects. The only problem, Anson alleges, is that Prouty is a crank who is affiliated with Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby, the unhinged depository of right-right-wing thought that, among other areas of nifty public service, peddles Holocaust-revisionism books. (Anson adds, pro-Stonely, that Stone consulted a more credible expert who has found evidence for the Kennedy-would've-withdrawn thesis, U.S. Army Maj. John Newman.)
Stone is aware of these criticisms but told me, in a telephone interview that featured no ranting, that nothing he's seen or heard has changed his mind. Time has proven Garrison more right than wrong, and Garrison's early critics had their own agendas. (Was I aware, for example, that the late James Kirkwood was gay, as was Clay Shaw, so Kirkwood's natural empathy for Shaw led him astray?) Post reporter George Lardner has been compromised by too many years on the CIA beat - Stone is careful not to say Lardner is a CIA "asset" but says Lardner can be relied on to be non-critical of the agency. As for Anson, "His piece is full of errors, half-truths, and intentional distortions." (Stone catalogued them in a lengthy letter to the editor printed in the December Esquire.) After the Esquire article appeared, Stone came on strong, hiring Hill and Knowlton's Frank Mankiewicz (Bobby Kennedy's former press secretary) to coordinate a public-relations counteroffense aimed at the major media.
I was only able to obtain a long-outdated first draft of the script in time to write this piece, so I don't know whose ideas made the final cut, but be aware that there's a lot more going on in "the field" than Stone could have had time to put on screen. Mafia- and Grand-Cabal Theory remain the biggest tents, but inside both are pup-size dwellings manned by specialists, feuders, and a few people who can justly be called lone nuts. Here are some hot themes and active players.
A 1988 British documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy (recently broadcast for the first time in the U.S. on A&E, in an expanded version), prominently displays Los Angeles researcher Steve Rivele's not-wildly-popular theory that three French gangsters offed JFK under orders from Marseilles crime bosses. He even named the gunmen. Lucien Sarti, a French hood - killed in Mexico City in 1972 - was dressed as a Dallas policeman and fired from behind the stockade fence high on the grassy knoll. His accomplices, Roger Bocognoni and Sauveur Pironti, fired from Dal-Tex. The men were allegedly hired by the chief of the Marseilles mob, Meme Guerini.
The early theorists were upset by the autopsy performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital on the night of November 22 by Navy pathologist James J. Humes. From the relatively humble anomalies that alarmed them, charges of ghoulish autopsy tampering have ballooned into a cottage industry. David Lifton, a Los Angeles researcher, spent fifteen years assembling his theory - explained in his successful 1981 book, Best Evidence (updated in 1988) - that conspirators aboard Air Force One stole JFK's body and ferried it to Walter Reed Hospital, where surgeons removed his brain and altered his head to support the shot-from-behind story. Lifton's archfoe, Robert J. Groden, mocks this theory in High Treason (with Harrison Edward Livingstone, 1988). He says the truth is much simpler: The autopsy photos and X-rays were faked. Lifton is reportedly working on a new video. Groden is writing a new book.
Oswald was exhumed in 1981, in a fiasco that grew out of the arguments in British writer Michael Eddowes's 1977 The Oswald File. Eddowes advanced the Oswald Doppelganger Theory so compellingly that Oswald's widow, Marina Oswald Porter, bought the idea that someone besides her husband might be found in his grave. After a struggle with Robert Oswald, she won court permission to exhume the body. The forensic specialists concluded that the body matched the records of the young Marine Corps Oswald, but many researchers remain unconvinced. Fort Worth photo ace/researcher Jack White attempts to prove in a video documentary that there were two Oswalds. Marrs insists that the smoking gun is a film of the exhumation, which reportedly shows doctors handling O's intact skull. Since we know Oswald's autopsy doctors sawed his head in two, Marrs says, something is wrong. This film isn't available, unfortunately, because of legal disputes about who owns it. (Dr. Irving Sopher, who was there, says there is no mystery. "I handled the skull," says Sopher, who today is West Virginia state medical examiner. "Oswald's scalp had mummified to hold it together.")