Monday, 07 November 2022 23:52

Suppressing The Truth in Dallas, by Charles Brandt

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Jim DiEugenio reviews the new JFK assassination book Suppressing the Truth, by Charles Brandt, and identifies its many weaknesses.

In the fall of 1977, former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison wrote a letter to Jonathan Blackmer of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. They had just met in New Orleans and were developing an informational relationship, one in which Garrison would offer any files he could dig up on a subject and often advise on its value. Blackmer had been originally appointed by Robert Tanenbaum.  Tanenbaum was the New York City Chief of Homicide who had been the original Deputy Counsel for the Kennedy side of the HSCA. In this letter Garrison warned Blackmer about the perils of investigating the Kennedy case by using the usual tools of a police investigation.  Garrison wrote that these methods would not be adequate in the JFK case. The main reason being that, in reality, Kennedy’s assassination was a covert operation. Which had layers of disguise around it.

That letter is still worth reading today.  And I wish Charles Brandt had read it. Because his new book on the JFK case is a prime example of how a former criminal investigator can go off the rails by relying on the lessons he learned in prosecuting felonies back—in Brandt’s case—the state of Delaware. Brandt is the author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction, in the crime genre.  He was a homicide investigator, prosecutor and finally Deputy Attorney General for Delaware.  In his book on the JFK case, Suppressing the Truth in Dallas, he lets us know about his past career quite frequently. And this is a serious problem with the work.

For instance, fairly early in the book, Brandt states that Lee Oswald killed President Kennedy, wounded Governor John Connally and killed Officer J. D. Tippit. (Brandt, pp. 21-22) Brandt actually embarrasses himself with the following, “… the evidence is overwhelming that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally.” (p. 21) Which would mean that he buys the efficacy of CE 399. Very wisely, he does not actually say that. Because in explaining the Magic Bullet, the evidence would be shown to be rather underwhelming.

I will give the reader one example of what Brandt does say to justify all this. He says that Oswald fired only three shots, and these were heard by the workers on the fifth floor, below the sixth floor crime scene. (Brandt, p. 22)

I was quite disappointed when I read this. First, it ignores the evidence of Tom Alyea.  Alyea was the Dallas photographer who was the first civilian on the sixth floor on November 22, 1963. He told Alan Eaglesham that when the police first found the shells, they were within a hand towel of each other. Which means they could not have been ejected by the rifle found on that floor.  But Tom also said that they were then lifted up and dropped on the floor and this was the arrangement that was then photographed by the police. (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 94)

As per the noise of the dropping of the shells above the workers on the fifth floor, again, this is dubious. One of those witnesses, Harold Norman, presents a problem for prosecutor Brandt. Because it appears Mr. Norman changed his story. On November 26th, in his first statement to the FBI, there is no mention at all about those three sounds he heard from above. And there is nothing in the record about Norman saying anything like that prior to that report. What makes this even more suspicious is that Norman’s new story did not appear until his Secret Service interview of December 2nd.  (ibid, p. 55)

Why? Because one of the Secret Service agents who Norman changed his story for was the infamous Elmer Moore. The man who worked on Dr. Malcolm Perry to change his story and the man who pulled a gun on Church Committee witness James Gochenaur. Moore also confessed that Secret Service Chief James Rowley and Inspector General James Kelly helped to frame agent Abe Bolden for his attempt to expose the plot to kill Kennedy in Chicago. (See Oliver Stone’s film, JFK: Destiny Betrayed)

Right here, Brandt’s case would be in a world of trouble in any kind of legitimate legal proceeding. Two of his underlying evidentiary theses for Oswald’s guilt are quite questionable. But that is just the beginning of the problematic side of this book.  Brandt accepts the Warren Commission tenet of Lee Oswald being a communist.  He can do this since he proffers none of the new evidence from people like author John Newman, HSCA investigator Betsy Wolf, British researcher Malcolm Blunt, or journalist Jeff Morley. That sum total would indicate that Oswald was not a communist.  He was, in all probability, a CIA agent provocateur and FBI informant. The evidence adduced by Morley and Newman in Stone’s film JFK Revisited would be enough to show the problems with Brandt’s ideas about Oswald.

Needless to say, Brandt also thinks that Oswald himself went to Mexico City in late September and early October of 1963.  Again, there are serious problems with that belief.  Many of them are put forth in the quite important, 410-page Lopez Report declassified by the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995. For instance, the lack of a picture of Oswald entering either the Cuban or Russian consulate, and the fact that Oswald himself spoke fluent Russian and the voice on the CIA tapes portray someone who spoke poor Russian. (DiEugenio, op. cit. pp. 287-300). In fact, it was the Commission treatment of Oswald in Mexico City which Jim Garrison once referred to as being perhaps the key to the plot. Since he was one of the first to suspect Oswald had been impersonated there. (Memo from Garrison to Lou Ivon, 1/19/68)


As part of his case against Oswald, Brandt states that Oswald fled the scene of the crime, namely the Texas School Book Depository. He accepts the Warren Report story about Oswald descending the sixth-floor stairs, and later being found in the second-floor lunch room by supervisor Roy Truly and policeman Marrion Baker; then leaving the building and going back to his rooming house. This is what he says: “…flight is powerful evidence of guilt…” (Brandt, p.22)

We have already shown that the idea that the sixth floor was a crime scene has some questions around it.  But something that shocked me about the book is that I could find no mention of the three secretaries on the fourth floor: Sandy Styles, Victoria Adams, and Dorothy Garner.  This is really strange in the face of the success of Barry Ernest’s book, The Girl on the Stairs and Rich Negrete’s follow up film, The Killing Floor. Those two works help express strong reservations that Oswald was on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting. And if he was not there, then how can this be powerful evidence of guilt? Also, we should not forget that people like Bart Kamp have presented evidence that the second-floor lunch encounter was an event created after the fact. It may not have happened as depicted in the Warren Report. (For more detail, click here.)

But to go further than that, if Oswald was fleeing the scene of the crime, why did he then take a bus back toward the scene of the crime? (Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 159) Because, if one accepts the Warren Report, that is what he did.  But then he got off that bus, walked several blocks, and hitched a ride in a taxi. But before he did that, he was about to get out of the cab and offer it to an elderly lady who asked that same driver to hail a taxi for her. (Lane, p. 165) The question is: Does a man who killed the president and wounded the governor of that state use public transportation to escape the scene of the crime? Does he then get off a bus, and then offer to give up his cab to someone he does not even know?  Where is the urgency in this?  How does it portray consciousness of guilt? I won’t even bring in the questions some writers have had about whether Oswald was really on that bus—the driver did not think it was him—or whether or not he was in that cab. Some believe that Oswald—or a double-- was actually taken out of Dealey Plaza by a dark complected Cuban in a Rambler station wagon, as testified to by Deputy Sherriff Roger Craig. (Lane, pp. 173-74)

But one of the most arresting characteristics about Brandt is his single-mindedness.  He portrays little if any doubt about what he is writing. But yet, that attitude is undermined by several mistakes he makes about the factual record.  For instance, in discussing the murder of J. D. Tippit, he says “A few brave eyewitnesses followed Oswald to a movie theater and watched him sneak in.” (Brandt, p. 23) I am not aware of any witnesses who followed Oswald from 10th and Patton, the scene of the Tippit shooting, to the Texas Theater, let alone “a few”. Most people who write books about the case should know that the two witnesses who complained about Oswald sneaking into the Texas Theater were Johnny Brewer and Julia Postal. The former worked at a shoe store down the street from the theater, and Postal was the ticket taker.

To show the reader how determined Brandt is to turn Oswald into the assassin, he actually writes that Oswald tried to kill Officer McDonald inside the theater as he was being apprehended. (Brandt, p. 23) This has been pretty much demolished by Hasan Yusuf. As per the Tippit shooting, Brandt follows the Warren Report on that one also: Oswald shot Tippit.  Except in this instance, he uses the testimony of the HSCA’s Jack Tatum as his signal witness. Apparently, he missed Jack Myer’s essay exposing Tatum as rather problematic.

As the reader can guess by now, Brandt also fingers Oswald in the attempted murder of General Edwin Walker. He does not explain how the projectile in that case went from a 30.06 to a 6.5 mm bullet--and also changed color, during the transfer from the Dallas Police to the FBI. Or how Oswald was never a suspect in the seven months that the police handled the case; but he quickly became the perpetrator shortly after the Commission and Bureau took over the Walker shooting. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 100-01)

Robert Tanenbaum once said about his experience as a homicide attorney, he always ended up with more questions than answers in handling a murder case. Well, Brandt seems to have nothing but answers in the JFK case. But as we have seen so far, he has not asked himself the right questions.


Having shown some of Brandt’s liabilities, what is his actual take on the crime?  Well, in addition to saying that Oswald did what the Commission said he did, he then chalks it all up to the Mob. (Brandt references Robert Blakey several times in his book.) As I noted above, by ignoring all the latest work on Oswald, he can simply make minimal observations about the man, and then label him a tool of organized crime.  Even though one of the pieces of evidence he uses--the whole connection with his uncle Dutz Murret as part of the New Orleans criminal element--was shown by the declassified record to be incorrect. Dutz Murret’s wife Lillian was examined by the House Select Committee on this point. She said that Dutz was not working for any mob connected bookie outfit in 1963.  His son Eugene said the same thing to the HSCA.  In fact Eugene said his father had disconnected with the Mob prior to 1959. (Interviews by HSCA with Lillian and Eugene, 11/6 and 11/7/78) So if there is any other significant evidence that Oswald was Mob associated, Brandt does not adduce it. (He does bring up an association much later, but we will deal with the problems with it in due time.)

The structural framework for Brandt’s book is one of the oddest I have ever read.  In fact, in that regard it is up there with the likes of Mark Shaw and Lamar Waldron.  He begins by making Earl Warren out to be a villain--not just in the JFK case, but in what he did with criminal law in general. Which is kind of odd, since many prosecutors think that what Warren did in this area was a long time coming and had prior precedents to back it e.g. the exclusionary rule was introduced in the Weeks vs United States case in 1914. Other aspects of what Warren did, ordering defendants to have attorneys in the Gideon case, and reading a suspect his rights in the Miranda case, have usually been praised as ameliorating abuses by police and prosecutors.

But incredibly, Brandt wants to put forth the idea that Warren was covering up for the Mob.  (Brandt, pp. 10-11). The way Brandt does this is rather odd.  Throughout the book, the author uses a phone call from Lyndon Johnson in which the president alluded to international complications in the JFK case. (Brandt, p. 41) Brandt treats this as a kind of nebulous pretext that LBJ was using.  Yet, to anyone who has read say, James Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, it’s clear what Johnson was referring to.  It was to the alleged appearance of Oswald at the Cuban and Russian embassy in Mexico City. (Douglass, p. 83, p. 335). Johnson attempted to intimidate Warren with the threat of atomic warfare due to Oswald’s activities at the two embassies, with the implication that Oswald killed Kennedy for the communists. And by all accounts, LBJ succeeded.  For instance, after LBJ put the fear of God in him, Warren did not want the Commission to call any witnesses or have subpoena power. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 311-12) How Brandt did not know about this, or failed to understand it, is really incomprehensible. But it was this nuclear intimidation that made Warren into a paper tiger on the Commission.

From this faulty premise, Brandt goes on to postulate another faulty premise. Namely that Warren dominated the Commission members and the legal staff. (Brandt, p. 50) This is undermined by another event the author fails to mention. Warren could not even push through the chief counsel he wanted—namely Warren Olney. By all accounts Olney was too much of a maverick for FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, and commissioners Gerald Ford, John McCloy and Allen Dulles. (DiEugenio pp. 314-15) So, quite early, Warren had been cowed twice. Unlike what Brandt writes, the real power within the Commission was what I refer to as The Troika: Gerald Ford, John McCloy and Allen Dulles. With their handpicked chief counsel, J. Lee Rankin, they essentially ran the show. (DiEugenio, pp. 315-17)


Brandt’s attempts at creating historical context for his structure is so unfounded and illogical that it becomes kind of an exercise in the theater of the absurd. For instance, his discussion of the Bay of Pigs invasion is one of the worst I have seen. Consider this for starters: he writes that Robert Maheu testified to the Church Committee about his actions in the Bay of Pigs. (Brandt, p. 73). I asked: What actions?  As far as I can see, Maheu had nothing to do with the Bay of Pigs.  The best volume I know of on the subject, Bay of Pigs Declassified, by Peter Kornbluh, never mentions Maheu.

Brandt follows this with something just as inexplicable. He writes that the Bay of Pigs led directly to Kennedy’s death. The problem with writing this is that he never comes close to proving it.  If that is not bad enough, his characterization of the operation is a bit ridiculous. Consider how he regards Allen Dulles telling JFK he would have a disposal problem with the Cubans.  Brandt interprets this as the Cubans badmouthing Kennedy if the operation failed. (p. 81). This is not what Dulles meant. What the CIA Director was indicating was that if Kennedy did not go through with the operation, there would be a problem in resettling the thousands of Cuban exiles the CIA had assembled. 

One of the most bizarre statements the author makes is that the Bay of Pigs constituted felony murder; an invasion of Cuba by the USA. I guess Brandt never heard of the Truman Doctrine, which dates from 1947. Or how it was used—to name just one instance-- in the CIA’s prior disaster in Indonesia in 1958, when Eisenhower tried to overthrow Sukarno.

Then we get to Brandt and Director of Plans Dick Bissell, the CIA’s chief architect and manger of the invasion.  Brandt quotes Bissell as saying there would be an “air umbrella” accompanying the invasion. (Brandt, pp. 83-84) As many writers on this subject, like Larry Hancock and David Talbot have concluded, Bissell was a rather unreliable source about the operation. Kennedy had insisted that any further air operations after the preliminary raids—which Brandt all but ignores—were to be conducted from an air strip on the island. (Kornbluh, pp. 125-27). Since no beachhead was ever established, these launches could not be made. Two reasons that the beachheads were not secured are due to lies the CIA had told Kennedy: 1.) There was no element of surprise, and 2.) There were no defections.

Another fact that Brandt never mentions is crucial. Bissell and Director Allen Dulles both later confessed that they knew the invasion would fail.  But they were banking on Kennedy intervening with direct American forces to bail out the operation rather than have it collapse. (Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy, pp. 521-22) When Kennedy learned about this duplicity, he decided to fire the top level of the Agency: Dulles, Bissell, and Deputy Director Charles Cabell. I could find no trace of any of this in Brandt.

Brandt continues in his vein as a very poor historian.  He says that the Bay of Pigs invasion included a top-secret plan to murder Castro. (Brandt, p. 85) This is false. There was no such plot included in the designs of the plan.  That whole affair was a completely separate operation secretly initiated and managed by the CIA.  Brandt makes this all the worse by writing that this plot was hatched by President Eisenhower, CIA director Dulles and Director of Plans Bissell and was then executed by President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

To say this is horse manure is an insult to horses. Any real historian would know that the CIA Inspector General Report on the plots to kill Castro was declassified back in the nineties. In two places in that report it specifically states that the CIA had no presidential approval for these plots. (For instance, see pp. 132-33) But Brandt then doubles down on this and says Operation Mongoose also included assassination plots. Again, this is not true.

But we later see why Brandt does this.  He wants to argue that these plots gave the Mob blackmail power over John Kennedy.  If Kennedy never knew of them and never authorized them, then such is not the case. And it creates another large fault line in his narrative. He adds to this later by saying that Bobby Kennedy concluded that the Mob killed President Kennedy. The best book on Robert Kennedy’s inquiry into his brother’s death is probably David Talbot’s Brothers. In that book, RFK considered three main culprits: the CIA, the Mob and the Cuban exiles.  He never came to a definite conclusion. According to Talbot that was going to happen when he won the presidency.


Brandt continues his cartoon history by saying that Joseph Kennedy was a bootlegger, and he used criminal influence to win the West Virginia primary for his son in 1960. (See Chapter 14, especially p. 59)

Both of these premises are false. And I have expounded on this before at length. The book that this rubbish is owed to is Double Cross, by Sam and Chuck Giancana--which is a wild fantasy. As Daniel Okrent proved in his book Last Call, there is no evidence at all in any FBI files of anyone accusing Joe Kennedy of being involved with the Mob in these kinds of ventures. And since the man was investigated six times for high offices, that includes well over 800 pages of documents spanning over two decades. (Click here for more.) Biographer David Nasaw showed how Joe Kennedy was making literally tens of millions at that time through real estate, stock trading, and most of all, distributing movies and managing film companies. Why would the multi-millionaire—with a Rolls Royce and chauffeur--want to get into something illegal when, for instance, at that time insider trading was legal?

Keeping to the fantasies of Double Cross, Brandt says that the Mob helped Joe Kennedy win the 1960 general election i.e. in Chicago.  Again, this is more rubbish.  John Binder did a careful study of the election results in Chicago in that year.  To put it mildly, they disprove this fiction.  The tallies were actually below average for that kind of election. And in talking to one of the ward bosses it was discovered that the actual instructions were to oppose the Kennedy candidacy. (See Binder’s essay, “Organized Crime and the 1960 Presidential Election. This would be a good place to add that the book is very sparsely annotated and has no index.)

Toward the end, Brandt brings in David Ferrie through two witnesses in New Orleans. (See Chapter 39) He writes about Ferrie being questioned by the Secret Service and let go.  To my knowledge Ferrie was questioned by Jim Garrison and then the FBI. He then says that at the Camp Street building Ferrie frequented, he was prepping for the trial of Carlos Marcello. Reportedly, Ferrie was doing that at Marcello’s lawyer’s offices.  Brandt concludes that Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz would have found out about Ferrie, and had both of them in his office, Oswald and Ferrie, one in one room and one in another. (Brandt, p. 221). I wish I was kidding when I wrote that. Apparently, Brandt is unaware that Will Fritz was the man who turned down an interview with Rose Cheramie. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 228)

To give Brandt some credit, his discussion of the testimony of Jack Ruby is acute as to its lack of credibility, and the author proves a few of Jack’s outright lies. (See Chapters 33-36). And he latches on to how important the testimony of Oswald’s landlady, Earlene Roberts, was and how important it should have been to find out who the two policemen were in that car beeping outside Oswald’s boarding house. The problem is that this is a rather slim portion of the book, and most of what he writes one can find elsewhere.

I was not expecting much from Brandt since I did not find his previous work on the Hoffa case, I Heard You Paint Houses, very distinguished. But in all honesty, I have to conclude that his current book is even worse than I thought it would be.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 November 2022 23:31
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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