Thursday, 28 March 2024 14:08

Deanne Stillman’s 'American Confidential' Exposed

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Our own Johnny Cairns exposes MSM author and playwright Deanne Stillman’s attempt to caricature Lee Oswald and his mother in a non-referenced and ill-informed book that is anything but confidential.

“I think the Evidence clearly demonstrates that Oswald was entirely innocent of this crime and indeed of the two other crimes charged to him, the murder of Tippit and the alleged attack on General Walker.” - Sylvia Meagher

When asked by Jim DiEugenio to review Deanne Stillman's American Confidential, I was not propelled by a surge of eager anticipation, but rather moved by a sense of duty. My pursuits have yielded works such as JFK Case Not Closed, “A Presumption of Innocence--Lee Harvey Oswald”, “Assassination 60”, and “Our Lady of The Warren Commission”. Through these endeavours, I have meandered across the vast expanses of cinematic narratives, pored over literary tomes, scrutinized declassified documents, and engaged in discourse with the dwindling cadre of witnesses who observed the cataclysm at Dealey Plaza.

As I ventured deeper into the quagmire of Ms. Stillman's narrative—marred by historical creations and egregious inaccuracies concerning the assassination—my initial sense of obligation dissolved, supplanted by a tidal wave of frustration and disenchantment. Sadly, this piece emerges as the most regrettable encounter for me within the extensive Kennedy assassination literature. This outcome hardly surprises, given that the author cites the following works as her foundation: Oswald's Tale, Libra, Marina and Lee, A Mother in History, Mrs. Paine's Garage, Reclaiming History, and Case Closed. (Stillman, pp. 220-224)

Lee Oswald, Schizophrenic Assassin?

“If there's any conspiracy in the case of the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, it was of mother and son in a silent pact…”(Ibid, p.208)

The problem I had with American Confidential is the serious lack of any concrete evidence supporting the authors speculative assertions on Lee Oswald. While Stillman boldly asserts that “Lee Harvey Oswald had killed the President,” she offers no tangible evidence to back up this serious charge. Mrs Stillman laments that the intricacies of the Kennedy murder “have been reduced to mind-numbing debate about forensics and ballistics that really misses the whole point.” Well Mrs Stillman, evidence is the currency of truth in the courtroom; without it, justice is bankrupt. Without tangible evidence, you're just another person with a theory. On the question of Oswald's motive, she borrows one of the pitiful explanations offered by the Warren Commission in that Oswald had an “urge to try and find a place in history.” she writes:

“…in a general sense, he (Oswald) always had it in mind (the assassination of JFK). He wanted to be famous, had an urge to kill a famous person, a figure of gravitas, in order to attain fame… it's of little consequence if (Oswald) was a patsy, a spy, a double agent… that whether or not he had accomplices or was used, whether he acted alone, as a solitary figure, a nobody, the act of destroying America’s most powerful and adored figure, a somebody, was his only route to immortality…In the end, for all the questioning and riddling over his motives in the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was simply fulfilling his mother's lifelong dream—to matter. In the end, they were a conspiracy of one.”. (Stillman p. xiii; xvi, p. 14) (see this)

In my work "Assassination 60," I dissect the flawed reasoning surrounding Lee Oswald's purported motive—a motive both the Commission and Mrs. Stillman speculate upon with certainty. Oswald himself, with fervent denial, rebutted the allegations thrust upon him. Among his numerous declarations of innocence, he assertively stated, “I don't know what dispatches you people have been given, but I emphatically deny these charges. I have not committed any acts of violence.” If Oswald truly yearned for the notoriety and the dark allure of being branded as Kennedy's assassin, as Stillman confidently suggests, then why would he eschew his purportedly sought-after moment in the limelight by professing his innocence? This stark discrepancy between Oswald's vehement denials and the motivations ascribed to him by Stillman strikes a critical blow to the speculative foundation of Oswald's alleged intent to murder.

Moreover, Stillman's analysis ventures further into speculative territory with claims that verge on the fantastical. She posits that; "Lee himself—was a distant relative to Robert E. Lee," the illustrious Confederate general of the American Civil War. This leads to the insinuation that on November 22nd, “Lee Harvey Oswald, an ordinary young man out of the South by way of the (Wild) West would commit the ultimate act of defiance, (by) blowing the head off the President of the United States, in this case, an American king.” Her insinuation that Oswald was enacting a role as a Confederate revenger, emerging as a nebulous entity from "deep in the heart of Dixie," propelled by a delusional mantra that "The South shall rise again…took out the head of an iconic family from the North.” This conjecture not only demands a significant leap of the imagination but also places Oswald in the peculiar position of being the first, and likely only, Marxist Confederate in documented history. (Stillman, p.26 p. 44)

Stillman then comments on Oswald's mental state. She reports; “When (Oswald) began getting into trouble in New York, aged 13, he was diagnosed as having various behavioural disorders, including early signs of schizophrenia.” (Ibid, p.58) This assertion raises further questions about the veracity of Mrs. Stillman's claims when scrutinized against the evidentiary record.

To assess the accuracy of these claims, we turn to the deposition of Dr. Renatus Hartogs, conducted by Commission Counsel Wesley J. Liebeler on April 16th, 1964, this testimony is crucial for understanding the context and accuracy of the psychiatric evaluation mentioned by the author.

Wesley Liebeler. In your capacity as chief psychiatrist for the Youth House did you have occasion at any time to interview Lee Harvey Oswald?
Renatus Hartogs. Yes.
Wesley Liebeler.Would you tell us when that was and all that you can remember about that interview in your own words.
Renatus Hartogs. I reconstructed this from what I remembered from the seminar. We gave a seminar on this boy in which we discussed him, because he came to us on a charge of truancy from school, and yet when I examined him, I found him to have definite traits of dangerousness…this child had a potential for explosive, aggressive, assaultive acting out which was rather unusual to find in a child who was sent to Youth House on such a mild charge as truancy from school.

Wesley Liebeler. Can you recall what kind of institution you recommended that Oswald be committed to?

Renatus Hartogs. I never make a recommendation as to the name, the specific institution.

Wesley Liebeler. Do you make a recommendation as to the type of institution to which you recommend a child?
Renatus Hartogs. Yes; I do that, either a mental hospital or training school or residential treatment center…

Wesley Liebeler. But you do recall quite clearly that you did recommend…

Renatus Hartogs. He should not be placed in the community.
Wesley Liebeler. Or placed on probation?
Renatus Hartogs. Yes; that is right.

Wesley Liebeler. Do you recall being interviewed on this question by the FBI? … Do you remember that you told them the same thing, that is, that you recommended institutionalizing Oswald as a result of his psychiatric examination which indicated that he was potentially dangerous?
Renatus Hartogs. Yes.

Wesley Liebeler. Dr. Hartogs, do you have in your possession a copy of the report which you made at the time you examined Oswald?
Renatus Hartogs. No.
Wesley Liebeler. Have you had any opportunity to examine a copy of that report since the assassination?
Renatus Hartogs. No.
Wesley Liebeler. So, the recollection that you have given us as regards your diagnosis and your recommendations is strictly based on your own independent recollection, plus the reconstruction of your interview with Oswald from the seminar that you recall having given?
Renatus Hartogs. Right.

Wesley Liebeler. I want to mark "Exhibit 1" on the examination of Dr. Renatus Hartogs, April 16, 1964, in New York, a photostatic copy of a document entitled "Youth House Psychiatrist's Report," indicating a report on case No. 26996; date of admission, April 16, 1953, exactly 11 years ago; date of examination, May 1, 1953, with regard to a boy by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald… on the last page of the report there is a section entitled "Summary for Probation Officer's Report," is there not?
Renatus Hartogs. Yes.
Wesley Liebeler. And you wrote there, about two or three sentences down, did you not, "We arrive therefore at the recommendation that he should be placed on probation under the condition that he seek help and guidance through contact with a child guidance clinic, where he should be treated preferably by a male psychiatrist who could substitute, to a certain degree at least, for the lack of father figure.

Renatus Hartogs. Yes. It contradicts my recollection.

Wesley Liebeler. It would not appear from this report that you found any indication in the character of Lee Oswald at that time that would indicate this possible violent outburst, is there?
Renatus Hartogs.
I didn't mention it in the report, and I wouldn't recall it now.
Wesley Liebeler. If you would have found it, you would have mentioned it in the report?
Renatus Hartogs. I would have mentioned it; yes…

Wesley Liebeler. And in fact, as we read through the report, there is no mention of the words "incipient schizophrenic" or "potentially dangerous" in the report.
Renatus Hartogs.
No; I don't know where she has it from… (Volume VIII; p. 214-224)

Adding to this, the esteemed Sylvia Meagher meticulously documents in her seminal work, Accessories After the Fact, “The Marine Corps medical records on Oswald for 1956-1959 consistently show no sign of emotional problems, mental abnormality, or psychosis… Oswald was the subject of psychiatric evaluation in the Soviet Union after his effort to avoid deportation by feigning an attempt at suicide. Soviet Records (CE985) show that (Oswald) was found to be not dangerous to other people…clear mind…no sign of psychotic phenomena…no psychotic symptoms. (Meagher, p.244)

In "Assassination 60," I delved into the narratives of various individuals who had personal connections with Lee Oswald and were, to put it mildly, completely astonished upon learning of his arrest for the Kennedy assassination. Within this collection of insights, Robert Oswald, a figure often referenced by Stillman in her work, offered a poignant declaration to the Commission. He firmly stated, "The Lee Harvey Oswald I knew would not have killed anybody." (Volume I; p. 314). Part 1 of 6: No Motive, plus the Silenced Witnesses

Skill with a Rifle

“In turn they (John Pic and Robert Oswald) taught Lee how to hold a rifle… Robert's recollection is at odds with the countless assertions from many quarters over the years that Lee didn’t know his way around guns except what he learned in the Marines (itself not inconsiderable) and even that wasn't sufficient to have enabled his apparent facility with firearms in Dallas…”(Stillman, p. 45)

In this section, I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head at the suggestion of Lee Oswald's rifle proficiency. One has to wonder why Stillman overlooks the documented evidence. Instead, she relies heavily on the memories of Robert Oswald and an unnamed section chief at Camp Pendleton, who claimed Oswald “was good with a rifle." (Stillman, p. 119)

Well, I hate to break it to Mrs Stillman but there is a significant body of evidence which directly challenges this portrayal, calling into question Oswald's capabilities with a rifle. An examination of the evidentiary record concerning Oswald's marksmanship reveals a more nuanced picture. In 1956, Oswald scored 212 on a rifle test, marginally exceeding the threshold for a sharpshooter classification—a level that signifies moderate proficiency, achieved after rigorous training focused on stationary targets. Yet, Oswald's subsequent performance deteriorated, with his last recorded rifle score falling to 191. This placed him in the "marksman" category, barely scraping by and indicative of subpar shooting skills.

Lieutenant-Colonel Allison G. Folsom's testimony to the Commission starkly highlights Oswald's unimpressive performance:

John Hart Ely – “He was not a particularly outstanding shot.”

Col. Folsom – “No, no, he was not.”

Such assessments position Oswald as a markedly mediocre shot, a perspective carried even further by author Henry Hurt's 1977 investigation. Hurt, who interviewed over fifty of Oswald's Marine colleagues, as a researcher for Edward Epstein’s book, Legend, collectively depicted Oswald as significantly lacking in marksmanship skills. These direct observations were then noted in Hurt’s book Reasonable Doubt. Sherman Cooley's commentary to Hurt vividly illustrates this consensus: "If I had to pick one man in the whole United States to shoot me, I'd pick Oswald. I saw the man shoot. There's no way he could have ever learned to shoot well enough to do what they accused him of."

James R. Persons and Nelson Delgado similarly attributed Oswald's deficient performance to a pronounced lack of coordination. Delgado's accounts to both the Commission and Mark Lane further illuminated Oswald's notoriety for inaccuracy, highlighted by numerous misses—an aspect of his skill set that Oswald himself seemingly disregarded with nonchalance. (Reasonable Doubt; pp. 99/100. picture section)

Oswald was such a good shot that they shipped him off to radar school… (Watch this and read this)Picture0

Oswald & The Soviets

Predictable as it is, the narrative here is that Lee Oswald was a genuine defector to the Soviet Union in 1959. Stillman relies heavily on The Warren Commission and Oswald's ‘Historic Diary’ in this regard. She writes after Oswald's ‘suicide’ attempt, that “Oswald visited the American Embassy…(and stated) I affirm that my allegiance is to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics…(but) Recognizing that while Lee may have been unstable…temporarily denied his request.” (Stillman, p. 126)

Stillman relates that “at some point amid his stay, Lee began to tire of Russia… it was while he made plans for departure that he met Marina.” (Oswald) and Marina applied for exit papers… (and) On June 1st, they (along with June Lee, the couples new born) left for America.” (Stillman pp.135, 136)

Yet, this portrayal conspicuously omits several critical aspects of Oswald's time in the Soviet Union, rendering the narrative incomplete. The exclusion of these details is not merely an oversight; it is bewildering, given their significance to understanding Oswald's motives, and the complexity of his eventual return to the United States.

  1. Whilst serving in the United States Marine Corps, Oswald had been given a Russian language test on February 25, 1959. As Jim Garrison remarked, “A solider genuinely involved in anti-aircraft duty would have about as much use for Russian as a cat would have for pajamas. (Volume VIII; pp. 303-311; On The Trail Of The Assassins; p.23)
  2. Whilst stating his desire to renounce his US citizenship, Oswald declared to consul Richard Snyder, “I was warned you would try to talk me out of defecting…Oswald (also) offered the information that he had been a radar operator in the Marine Corps and that he had voluntarily stated to unnamed Soviet officials that as a Soviet citizen he would make known to them such information concerning the Marine Corps and his specialty as he possessed. He intimated that he might know something of special interest.” Snyder hypothesised that Oswald was speaking for Russian ears in my office.” (John Newman, Oswald and the CIA; pp. 5 -6)
  3. Oswald wrote after the embassy episode that “I’m sure Russians will except me after this sign of my faith in them.” (WR p. 393)
  4. The State Department played a crucial role in Oswald's return from Russia to the United States, extending him a loan of $435.71 to cover travel expenses. (Meagher, p. 328)
  5. In a 1963 radio interview, when asked by Bill Stuckey how he managed during his stay in the Soviet Union, Oswald hesitantly responded, “I worked in Russia. I was under the uh the protection of thee uh, that is to say I was not under the protection of the American Government but at all times uh considered an American citizen.” (Watch this)
  6. Tennent Bagley, celebrated as one of the most skilled counterintelligence officers in CIA history, emphatically told researcher Malcolm Blunt regarding the paper pattern tracing Oswald's defection, “He had to be witting! He had to be witting!” This statement confirms that Lee Harvey Oswald's defection to Moscow was a deliberate act of false defection. (James DiEugenio, JFK Revisited; pp.193-194)

One must pose a critical question to Ms.Stillman regarding the credibility of her narrative: If Lee Oswald was indeed a genuine defector to the Soviet Union in 1959, then how does she account for the lack of legal repercussions or intelligence debriefing upon his return to the United States in 1962? The absence of his arrest upon disembarking in New Jersey, or at the very minimum, a thorough debriefing by the FBI or CIA concerning his public defection and proclaimed disclosure of sensitive information to Soviet officials, casts a shadow of implausibility over her claims. This glaring omission challenges the logic of Stillman's portrayal and invites skepticism about the veracity of Oswald's defection narrative, rendering it perplexingly incongruent with standard protocols for handling defectors who return home.

The Backyard Photographs

Regarding the controversial backyard photographs depicting 'Lee Harvey Oswald,' Mrs. Stillman's narrative is laden with exaggerated interpretations concerning Oswald's thoughts and demeanor in these images. She initiates her analysis by dubiously labelling the photo as “The first selfie of a killer in the modern era,” a claim that stretches the bounds of credibility. (Recall, the pictures were supposedly taken by Marina Oswald.) Furthermore, she draws an ambitious comparison between Oswald and “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” suggesting that the iconic image of Crockett serves as a precursor to the Neely Street photograph. Oswald is then depicted with “the rifle at his side, pistol in his pocket, brandishing a copy of the militant,” and according to Mrs. Stillman, he even autographed the still with; “Killer of fascists, Lee Harvey Oswald” for a friend.

The author’s interpretation ventures into the realm of the fantastical when she insinuates that Oswald, through his pose, seems to challenge the viewer with a defiant “You looking at me?… You looking at ME? Who’re you looking at—me?”—echoing a bravado reminiscent of fictional characters like the Joker and Robert De Niro's portrayal in Taxi Driver yet predating them. She further suggests that by posing with 'his' rifle, Oswald aligns himself with the archetype of American gunslingers, en route to their own metaphorical 'high noon.' Taking her analysis to a contentious climax, Stillman posits that Oswald has become an “influencer” to modern mass shooters, a statement that not only imbues the photograph with an unwarranted level of influence but also ventures into speculative territory far removed from substantiated facts.

Firstly, in my article, In “Our Lady of the Warren Commission”, I countered the contention that Oswald had in fact posed with these weapons at the backyard in Neely Street. Oswald told Capt. Fritz when accosted with the photograph that “the picture was not his, that the face was his face, but that this picture had been made by someone superimposing his face, the other part of the picture was not him at all and that he had never seen the picture before… He told (Fritz) that he understood photography real well, and that in time, he would be able to show that it was not his picture, and that it had been made by someone else”.

Secondly the text at the back of the photograph Stillman is describing is the wrong version!! The George DeMohrenschildt version of the photo was not discovered until 1967, in the DeMohrenschildt storage unit. This read “To my friend George from Lee, 5/V/63”. But written in a different hand is the words, “Hunter of Fascists, Ha! Ha! Ha!” It is this photo, with its different resolution and perspective that has puzzled many writers as to its origin. As he said in his manuscript, “I am a Patsy” George was puzzled to find it in his belongings, amid record albums, upon his return from Haiti. Reportedly, the Ruth and Michael Paine had access to the storage unit. (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 106)

Stillman then delivers this stunning smear. She writes; “What Lee Harvey Oswald tapped into and made his own has taken the country into years of years of violence.” This statement left me appalled and deeply troubled by the insinuation. She essentially accuses Lee Oswald of being the precursor to all mass shootings in the United States today. Further, she argues, “the bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald are still ricocheting across the land…the plague of gun violence and mass shootings…all over America, in malls, schools and places of work.” She describes people such as John Hinckley Jr, Robert Crimo III and Kyle Rittenhouse as “Oswald fans” and compares Oswald to Billy the Kid saying; They were not so different to mass shooters of today. I think it’s safe to say that Billy the Kid ran through Oswald’s blood— as he does through the veins of all Americans, taken over when roused by the fates.” This characterization of a man who was murdered whilst vehemently protesting his innocence, it’s nothing short of out-right slander and by doing so sets a highly dangerous precedent to future tragedies yet to unfold.

When I related this portrayal to my good friend Walt Brown, Walt quipped; “If modern mass shooters all had Mannlichers, the population would be a lot safer.” One might also add that the first modern mass shooter preceded Oswald by five years, namely Charles Starkweather. One might also add that Principal Leonard Redden opened fire into a classroom of students at William Reed Elementary in 1960, killing two teachers.

Due to the Marital Privilege Law, the backyard photos would not have been admissible in a court of law, had Oswald been allowed to stand trial. (Stillman, pp. xvi, 36, 158, 159, 190, 191, 193; for the problems with the custody chain of the so-called Oswald rifle see DiEugenio, p.82; WCR, pp. 607-609)

Stillman Reels in Walker

To further cement her claims about Oswald's culpability, Mrs. Stillman unequivocally states, “That on April 10th, 1963, Lee had attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker in Dallas.” Presumably aiming to paint a comprehensive picture of Oswald's predisposition towards violent acts. (see p. 157)

The discourse surrounding the Walker case is one I have delved into thoroughly in my article, "Our Lady of The Warren Commission." This piece serves as a pointed critique against the assertions made by Ruth Paine and Thomas Mallon, which I had the opportunity to witness in person during a talk I attended at Irving's Dupree Theatre on November 20th, 2023. With this context in mind, let's critically examine the more dubious claims presented by the author concerning the Walker case.

Claim. Mrs. Stillman makes a compelling assertion when she claims that after hastily departing from the Walker residence, Lee Oswald concealed the Mannlicher Carcano rifle within the confines of the Neely Street house.

Testimony. Marina Oswald testified: That she accosted Lee over the Carcano’s whereabouts in the immediate aftermath of the Walker attempt; "Where is the rifle? What did you do with it? ‘Lee’ said that he had left it somewhere, that he had buried it…(by railroad tracks) (Stillman ; p.158; WC Volume I; p.16)

Claim. Stillman provides a narrative suggesting that merely three days following the birth of his daughter Rachel, Oswald found himself amidst an assembly spearheaded by General Walker. Here, she ventures into the realm of conjecture regarding Oswald's inner musings as he observed Walker speaking. She hypothesizes, “Perhaps he considered the fame that was almost his, if only he hadn’t missed. Maybe he thought, ‘You lucky son of a bitch… one of these days, I might try again.’

Fact. This raises a significant question: How could Stillman possibly know what was going through Oswald's mind? Such assertions enter the realm of fiction writing. (Stillman, p. 165)

Claim. Stillman recounts that a mere three days post-event, upon Oswald's acceptance of Michael Paine's invitation to a meeting of the ACLU, a secretive exchange occurred. Oswald, in a whispered confidence to Marina, insinuated, “If only Michael knew what I wanted to do to Walker! Wouldn’t he be scared.” Like many such provocative quotes, the author does not footnote this exchange.

Source? Given the extensive documentation questioning Marina Oswald's credibility, and her outright denial of any knowledge when confronted with the Walker note, skepticism toward any of her accounts in these matters is duly warranted. Notably, Sylvia Meagher had explicitly stated that “Marina Oswald fabricated the whole story of the attack on General Walker—which is exactly what much other evidence suggest.” (Stillman, p. 165, Meagher, p. 130)

Claim. Stillman notes that Oswald had taken lodging at his rooming house (1026 North Beckley) under a “assumed name—the one that, it later turned out, he had ordered the rifle used to shoot at Walker…”

Fact. Oswald is alleged to have rented the room on Beckley under the name O. H. Lee. The Rifle and Revolver were alleged to have been purchased by an A.Hidell. (Stillman p.166, WR, pp.181-182)

Claim. Stillman illuminates an oversight “when the FBI confiscated all of the Oswald’s possessions in the Paine house, including the garage, for some reason they left behind Marina’s childcare books, the ones that were in Russian”. She recounts “Ruth's attempt to ensure these books reached Marina, sending them through the ‘Dallas’ police station, though she remains uncertain of their eventual delivery to her friend.”

Facts. Firstly, it was Ruth Paine who transported the books to the Irving Police station, distinctly not Dallas, thereby ensuring the geographic accuracy of events. Secondly, the task of searching the Paine residence on November 23, 1963, fell to the Dallas & Irving Police, not the FBI. Thirdly, the question of Ruth Paine's awareness regarding the delivery of the books to Marina Oswald comes into sharp focus, especially when considering that one of these books contained the infamous 'Walker note.' This note was later unearthed by the Secret Service, who subsequently confronted Ruth about it since they suspected she wrote it. Such details question the plausibility of Ruth's claimed uncertainty about the books' contents and their significance. This correction is further explored in "Our Lady," (Stillman; p.205) (see this)

Claim. (It was only after) JFK was killed that Marina came forward with a note and an incriminating picture.

Fact. The emergence of the note occurred not merely after President Kennedy's death but also following Lee Oswald's, revealing its discovery to be entirely postmortem. The note surfaced when the Secret Service found it concealed "inside a little book of advice to Russian mothers." This item had been passed to them by the Irving Police, courtesy of Ruth Paine. Upon uncovering the note, a Secret Service agent confronted Marina Oswald via phone, during which she expressly “disclaimed any knowledge of such note.” Additionally, the referenced 'incriminating picture' wasn't voluntarily provided by Marina Oswald. Instead, it was unearthed in the garage of the Paine residence on November 23, 1963, by Dallas detective Gus Rose, as part of a broader search. (Stillman; p.158, Volume VII; p.231) (see this)

In response to Stillman's assertion about Oswald's involvement in the attempt on General Edwin Walker's life, I must reiterate with absolute clarity: the body of evidence firmly aligns with the conclusion that Lee Oswald did not attempt to assassinate General Walker on April 10th, 1963. For a more detailed exploration of the Walker case and the evidence supporting this position, I recommend consulting "Our Lady of the Warren Commission." This statement underscores a critical examination of the facts, advocating for a comprehensive understanding of the case against Oswald. (see this)

Oswald’s Rights

“Marguerite too often raised the subject of rights—and their violation—whenever she was talking about what happened to Lee. It was a family tradition and mother and son lived under the umbrella of defiance.”(Stillman; p. 181)

Marguerite would often speak…when it came to how Lee was treated following the assassination…It was all about a violation of rights, and it proved once again that someone or something was out to get the Oswald family.(Ibid, p. 74)

In my November 2023 presentation at JFK Lancer, I explored the critical issue of Lee Harvey Oswald's rights during his detention, an issue meticulously addressed in "Assassination 60," particularly in point 17. The Dallas Police's handling of Oswald starkly illustrates a grave infringement of his human and constitutional rights, as evidenced by instances of unjustifiable police line-ups, extensive interrogation without legal counsel, and the propagation of unfounded 'facts' by law enforcement. This series of violations reached a tragic climax with Oswald's assassination by an individual with connections to the Mob, Dallas Police and FBI. The notion that such a blatant disregard for Oswald's rights might be dismissed as figments of Lee and Marguerite Oswald's imaginations is not only perplexing but deeply troubling.Picture1

Even J. Edgar Hoover, acknowledged the severity of the situation. He admitted, “There are bound to be some elements of our society who will holler their heads off that his civil rights were violated—which they were.” (see this)

From the outset of his detention, Oswald faced a litany of rights abuses that should concern any advocate for justice and due process.

Furthermore, Stillman's portrayal, which attempts to trivialize the egregious violations against Lee Oswald by attributing them to a familial tradition of defiance, significantly downplays the gravity of his situation. The case against Oswald should remind us of the importance of the presumption of innocence, not as a mere formality, but as a cornerstone of justice and democracy. In this context, the words of John F. Kennedy resonate with profound relevance: The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” We should never forget that Oswald requested a lawyer come forward but the attorney he wanted, from the ACLU, Greg Olds, was bamboozled by the police. (Vol. 7, p. 323)

Lee & Robert Oswald, November 23, 1963

On Saturday, November 23, 1963, Robert Oswald had a conversation with his brother Lee, who was detained in the Dallas City Jail. This moment is detailed in American Confidential as;

Robert Oswald. “Lee, what in the Sam Hill’s going on.”

Lee Oswald. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Robert Oswald. “Now wait a minute. They’ve got you charged with the death of a police officer and the death of the President. They’ve got you’re pistol. They’ve got your rifle, and you tell me you don’t know what’s going on?”

And then he searched Lee’s eyes, looking for a sign pf something, some emotion, and finding nothing. Finally Lee responded.

Lee Oswald. “Brother, you won’t find anything there.”

Does the dialogue depicted in American Confidential align with the established evidentiary record, specifically Robert Oswald's testimony before the Warren Commission and the photostatic copies of his diary, as documented in the Commission's volumes under CE323?

The following details, notably absent from Stillman's narrative, significantly alter the context and substance of the conversation.

Robert Oswald. “…I did try to point out to him that the evidence was overwhelming that he did kill Police Officer Tippit and possibly the President. To this (Lee) replied do not form any opinion on the so-called evidence. All the time we were talking I searched his eyes for any sign of guilt or whatever you call it. There was nothing there—no guilt, no shame, no nothing. Lee finally aware of my looking into his eyes, he stated you will not find anything there.” (Volume XVI; CE323; p.13)

The portrayal of the conversation between Lee Oswald and his brother Robert in American Confidential contrasts starkly with the version documented in the Warren Commission's records. Stillman's rendition omits critical details that suggest Oswald contested the evidence against him, instead presenting a dialogue that portrays him as evasive and detached. This selective omission appears to serve the purpose of reinforcing her argument that Oswald was mentally unstable and guilty of the murders attributed to him, simplifying a complex interaction to fit this narrative. By excluding Oswald's expression of innocence and critique of the evidence, Mrs. Stillman not only alters the reader's perception of Oswald's demeanour but also manipulates the narrative to align with her thesis of his guilt and mental state, significantly impacting the interpretation of Oswald's innocence or guilt.

The Author Backs Pricilla

One of the books the author heavily relies on is Marina and Lee by Priscilla Johnson. This is the women whom Ruth Paine and Thomas Mallon paid tribute to at the dog and pony show last November at the Dupree Theatre. Buried in the authors endnote section of the book, Stillman acknowledges “that there is some controversy surrounding Marina and Lee…(The charge is) that you shouldn't trust anything McMillan says or writes; she probably had an affair with Kennedy and/or is/ was working for the state department…much of her testimony for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976 has been redacted, which has further fuelled speculation about her possible involvement with the US intelligence community. After Marina and Lee was published, McMillan (also) translated Stalin’s daughter's memoir into English, which added yet more heat to the fire.” However, Mrs Stillman assures us that “(McMillan’s) book is so good and so palpably authentic that (Mrs Stillman) is giving her a pass. And that “any connection with the intelligence community, while worth noting, in and of itself, is probably not relevant.” (American Confidential; p. 221-222)

For more on Mrs McMillan, please see this.

Basic Error in the Book Surrounding the Case

There are numerous errors in American Confidential regarding both the JFK and Tippit cases. Below I have listed some with the factual corrections underneath each claim.

Claim.Mrs Stillman charges that on November 22, 1963 Oswald had killed, “J. D. Tippit of the city's police department as the officer tried to nab the fugitive on his beat in the Oak Cliff neighbourhood. (Stillman, p. 45)

Fact. Based on the tangible evidence and eyewitness testimony, it is this reviewer’s opinion that Lee Oswald did not kill Officer Tippit. Also,Tippit was not in his assigned district at the time he was killed. In fact, he was more than three miles from where he was supposed to be.” (Reasonable Doubt; p.159)

Claim. When describing the arrest of Lee Oswald at the Texas Theater, Stillman claims that Nick McDonald, Dallas Police Officer and Oswald fought inside the Texas Theatre. She then asserts that “The fight spilled out into the street, with the burly McDonald finally overpowering the amped-up though smaller Oswald… (American Confidential; p. 47)

Fact. Oswald was apprehended inside the Texas Theatre, contrary to narratives of a one-on-one altercation with Officer McDonald that supposedly spilled onto the street. This is clearly evidenced by the photograph in question.Picture2

Picture3Claim. With regards to the shocking murders of Jack Kennedy & Lee Oswald, Stillman writes, That shocking incident (Oswald's murder) was televised, just like the JFK assassination— with the fleeing limousine and Jacqueline Kennedy trying to clamber her way out of it until she was shoved back in by a Secret Service agent… Oswald’s murder became the second homicide within a period of two days that millions of Americans watched in real time.” (American Confidential; p. 176)

Facts. Boy there’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly, the assassination of President Kennedy was not broadcast live, meaning it wasn’t witnessed in real-time by millions of Americans on television. It wasn’t until March 6, 1975, during an episode of ABC’s late-night show “Good Night America,” hosted by Geraldo Rivera, that the Zapruder film was shown on television for the first time. This presentation, facilitated by assassination researchers Robert Groden and Dick Gregory, sparked significant public response and outrage. The reaction to the broadcast was a catalyst for the establishment of the Hart-Schweiker investigation into the assassination.

Secondly Mrs. Kennedy climbed on the back of the limousine to retrieve a piece of her husband's skull which had been blasted out. Clint Hill testified; “Mrs. Kennedy - the second noise that I heard had removed a portion of the President's head, and he had slumped noticeably to his left. Mrs. Kennedy had jumped up from the seat and was, it appeared to me, reaching for something coming off the right rear bumper of the car, the right rear tail. Whilst at Parkland Hospital Mrs Kennedy approached one of the doctors in the ER, “her hands cupped one over the other. She was holding her husband's brain matter in her hands.”(Volume II; p. 138-139, Not In Your Lifetime; p. 18)

Claim. In her comprehensive listing of entities, groups, and individuals implicated by various sources in the assassination, Stillman identifies notable figures such as Guy Bannister, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Carlos Marcello, and even LBJ. Yet, the inclusion of Mark Lane is especially astonishing. Celebrated for his pioneering investigation into the assassination, Lane’s mention in this context is not merely surprising but profoundly unsettling. It prompts a crucial and stirring inquiry: Is Stillman implying that Mark Lane, contrary to all anticipations based on his investigative contributions, might have played a part in the assassination itself? (American Confidential; p. 178)

Claim. “The rifle was hidden in that garage… November 22, (Oswald) smuggled it out, still in the blankets and he got into the car of his friend who had been driving him to work every day since he had started at the book depository, and he headed up to the sixth floor, package in hand. (American Confidential; p. 173)

Fact. Firstly, the Commission's claim is that Oswald transported and hid the disassembled Carcano in a homemade paper bag (CE142), allegedly using materials from the Texas School Book Depository on November 21, 1963. Secondly, the narrative suggests that Buell Wesley Frazier, described as Oswald's 'friend', consistently drove Oswald to work. This claim is flawed, considering Oswald's visits to Irving, where Frazier lived, were limited to weekends. This discrepancy prompts a critical question: Is it being suggested that Frazier made a significant detour to collect Oswald from 1026 North Beckley for their journey to the TSBD, a scenario that diverges from well-documented facts?

Claim. Stillman's portrayal of the moments leading up to the assassination on the sixth floor is highly imaginative and ventures into more speculative fiction. By suggesting that; “the moment was nearly at hand, and (Oswald) may have heard more voices, had some second thoughts. The ghosts of Presidential assassins past began to appear; there was John Wilkes Booth, and Charles Guiteau and then Leon Czolgosz and they all urged him not to waiver, to join them and Oswald cocked his rifle and was ready to fire. (American Confidential; p173) When, in fact, as the film JFK Revisited shows with four witnesses it is almost impossible to believe Oswald was on the sixth floor at the time. For the simple reason that none of them saw or heard him on the stairs descending down, and they were on the 4th floor.

The book is replete with fictional narratives akin to this, punctuating its pages with imaginative yet historically unsubstantiated accounts. It is with these observations in mind that my critique of the book concludes. (American Confidential; p. 173)

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Mark Anthony.


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Last modified on Friday, 19 April 2024 17:30
Johnny Cairns

Johnny Cairns is an electrician living in Edinburgh. He first got interested in President Kennedy through his father, Robert Cairns. Since then, he has held an undying admiration for Jack Kennedy and what he stood for. Through familiarizing himself with the facts of this crime, he has also become an advocate for the innocence of his alleged assassin, Lee Oswald. Through the various friendships developed with other researchers and making the trip to Dallas in 2018, he has spoken at JFK Lancer presenting the case for Oswald’s innocence and co-authored a book which is due for release at the end of 2021, titled “Case Not Closed.”

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