Saturday, 01 May 2010 15:10

Dean T. Hartwell, Dead Men Talking: Consequences of Government Lies

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James DiEugenio reviews Dean T. Hartwell's book on forty years of government cover-ups.

How did it happen? How did this country get into the sorry state it is? America today is a place where presidential elections are stolen in broad daylight – and the Supreme Court then sanctions the thievery. Where a debacle like 9/11 takes place, and yet not a single person gets fired. A country where an administration can launch a phony war with Iraq – needlessly losing thousands of young men and women and countless billions in dollars – yet the Speaker of the House says that giant fraud was not grounds for impeachment. A country in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased over 1,000% since 1972 – yet both the middle class and working class are worse off now than they were then. A country where a con artist like Bernie Madoff could actually rise to be president of NASDAQ. A nation whose politicians allow casino-like gouging on Wall Street, and then when the bubble bursts, the tax-payers bail out the looters to the tune of a trillion dollars. And they have to, because if they don't their IRA's, pensions, and annuities could disappear. It's a country where the moderate Republican Party of Eisenhower became the extremism of Gingrich and DeLay. The US is a place where a right-wing foreign billionaire like Rupert Murdoch can convince a large part of the public that somehow his interests coincide with theirs. It's a nation whose populace is so cowed and misinformed that they could consider a shallow frat boy like George Bush Jr. for president – not once, but twice. And then, when he cheats his way into office both times, the MSM actually tries to cover up for him. After all, the only price paid was the financial bankruptcy of the USA. A country, which, as conservative banker Charles Morris has written, is "hopelessly in hock to some of the world's most unsavory regimes." And part of that transfer of wealth was made possible by companies like the Carlyle Group, led by former "representatives of the people" like George Bush Sr., James Baker, and John Major.

In other words, the USA today is a second-rate nation which veers violently from national scandal to senseless war back to national scandal. And the purveyors of neither the wars nor the scandals are ever actually called to account for their sins. Consequently, the cycle continues downward. With no real light at the end of the tunnel. When you can pull off a crime like what just happened on Wall Street, and make average Americans foot the bill – well, that should tell you what the USA has become: a giant ATM machine for the wealthy. Except in the end, you find out they had access to your account. And the politicians in Washington don't really give a damn.

How did things go so awry? To the point where, to use some appropriate hyperbole, America reminds some of the last scene of fire and smoke in Nathanael West's memorable apocalyptic novel The Day of the Locust. Many people are aware of the condition of course. Which is why alternative forms of media have arisen. Because, to put it mildly, the MSM has not done a very good job keeping the wolf from the door. In fact, many citizens think they helped the animal up their sidewalk.

For me, alternative media has not been up to the task, at least not yet. As I have noted on this site, the likes of blogs like Firedoglake and Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo have been rather disappointing. For me, before a nation can deal with its present, it has to be able to face its past. Its real past. In other words, the public has to be made to understand the depth and breadth of the historical crimes in order to explain how, for instance, an administration can simultaneously fire eight US attorneys and lie about it before Congress. And the following Democratic administration chooses not to try any of the perjurers or the perpetrators. This is pretty much saying that the law is what the occupiers of the Department of Justice say it is. And in the case of Don Siegelman, Cyril Wecht, and others, new Attorney General Eric Holder replies, "Well, too bad, but I guess it was."

For those of us who recall a better America, this will not do. Therefore we have tried to give history back to the people in an honest and investigative way. We did it when Lisa Pease and myself published Probe bi-monthly. We tried to do it in our book, The Assassinations. And John Kelin and I do it here on this site, e.g., Roger Feinman's fine essay on Sonia Sotomayor.

Dean T. Hartwell has now made his contribution.

His short book, Dead Men Talking, is subtitled Consequences of Government Lies. It is a concise attempt at what some people call revisionist history. Except that it stretches across the decades from 1963 to 2001, nearly forty years. The Assassinations, was also an attempt at revisionist history. But it only covered five years: 1963-68. It took in the murders of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Senator Robert Kennedy. We did that because we thought that by centering on those four people, we could concentrate on both one time period, and also one method of covert operation: the assassination of political leaders by gunfire. Then, in the Afterword of that book, I tried to isolate these events by saying they constituted a landmark in American history. Hartwell decided to take two of these assassinations – the Kennedys – and combine them with the attacks on the USA of September 11, 2001.

Hartwell begins the book by countering the mocking tone that the MSM uses to discount the idea of "conspiracy theories." One method he uses is rather simple: If the official story is harder to swallow than an alternative theory, then the public has every right to question the official story. Especially when it makes no sense anyway. The idea that a mediocre – or worse – rifleman like Lee Harvey Oswald could actually better the performance of almost every marksman who ever tried to duplicate his alleged feat is hard to swallow. And when you add in the fact that the Warren Commission could never duplicate the condition of the magic bullet, i.e., CE 399, in any of their tests – and actually tried to cover that fact up – well that gives us reason to wonder. He also mentions the recurrent use of a patsy, or what he terms a scapegoat. The labeling of Oswald as an anti-social Marxist helped to compensate and distract from the weakness of the evidentiary case against him. The author also notes that the official investigations often fail to properly address relevant and controversial facts that are necessary to uphold their stories. In the JFK case for instance, an example would be the location of Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting.

Hartwell also mentions other precedents for government officials lying to the public about acts of state. Two being the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and the 18 1/2-minute gap in the famous Nixon-Haldeman tape three days after the Watergate break-in.

I am not going to analyze in any depth his discussion of what happened on September 11, 2001. I have read only two books on that subject, plus a few essays on the web. If you can believe it, I have never even read anything by David Ray Griffin. And Griffin is the 9/11 equivalent of Mark Lane. Hartwell lists some of the most common anomalies that the critics of the official story have enumerated: the ignored warnings both domestically and from abroad; the failure of any interceptor jets to get close to either Washington or New York; the acrobatic tight turn taken by Flight 77 before it hit the Pentagon: the confluence of war games that morning which tended to confuse radars; the incredibly fast collapse of Building 7, which was not hit by any planes. (I must note in this regard, when Tucker Carlson had scientist Stephen Jones on his show, he showed this collapse. But he edited out the complete fall. All you saw was the beginning of the collapse, and the actual bouncing of the rubble.)

I cannot make any real judgment about Hartwell' s work on this case since, as I said, I am in no way an authority on it. And I don' t feel ashamed in admitting that. One can only thoroughly investigate so many of these scandals. And I feel I have done that with the JFK, MLK, and RFK cases. But it seems to me that Hartwell has hit the highlights and used the work of some of the credible critics e.g. Griffin, Mike Ruppert, Michel Chossudovsky.

Let me add one last thing about this case. I managed to watch some of the live hearings of the 9/11 Commission. It convinced me that the days of so-called Blue Ribbon Commissions should be officially ended. This was especially obvious during the questioning of Condoleezza Rice, which I thought was actually kind of embarrassing. I later learned that the Executive Director of the Commission, Philip Zelikow, had 1.) Worked on the transition team of George Bush Jr., 2.) Been appointed to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and 3.) Co-written a book with Rice. In fact, after the attacks, Rice had him rewrite the initial report on what the American response should be to the new threat of terrorism. In light of all this, even Warren Commission sycophant Max Holland – who knows Zelikow personally – has declared that Zelikow should not have been the director of that Commission.


In his discussion of the assassination of President Kennedy, Hartwell first lists the main official findings about three shots and three shells. He then brings in the common questions about this. Namely that some people heard more than four shots, and that the presence of the shells do not prove they were fired that day. He then begins to critique the work of Gerald Posner and his accent on the presumed psychology of Lee Harvey Oswald. Hartwell notes that Posner' s intent is somehow to denote a motive. He adds that this is "misplaced since motive makes no difference in a criminal conviction." (p. 73)

He then shifts the focus and adds that what occurred both directly before and after is quite important. (p. 74) In other words, where was Oswald at the time of the shooting? Hartwell, relying somewhat on the work of noted critic Howard Roffman argues that he probably was not on the sixth floor. He then goes after the Commission' s star witness in this regard, Howard Brennan. (p. 76) For instance, Brennan once said that he actually saw the fatal shot hit JFK, and that he also saw the assassin stay at the window for three or more seconds after the fatal shot hit. (ibid) Both are dubious since they seem mutually exclusive.

Hartwell then goes into Oswald' s alleged movements after the shooting, concentrating on the testimony of policeman Marrion Baker. This is the motorcycle officer who stopped his vehicle and then climbed the stairs in the Texas School Book Depository. He allegedly encountered Oswald at the second floor lunchroom. Hartwell questions the efficacy of the timing of the reconstructions. (p. 77) Hartwell then uses the testimony of Dr. Robert Hunt before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. After studying the photos of the boxes in the so-called sniper' s nest, he concluded that someone had moved the boxes about two minutes after the shooting. As Hartwell writes, that person could not have been Oswald. (p. 79)

From here, Hartwell briefly discusses the provenance of the alleged rifle that was supposedly ordered by Oswald. He acutely states that no one at the post office recalled handing the rather large and bulky package to Oswald. (p. 80) And he also notes the problem of the post office box being signed for in Oswald' s name only. Yet the rifle was ordered in the name of A. Hidell. If Oswald picked up the rifle, he would have had to show that he actually was the bearer of both identities. An event which probably would have gone up to the supervisor and which surely would have been remembered.

Hartwell then goes on to the highly controversial palm print evidence. He notes that the palm print was taken off a part of he rifle that was only exposed when the rifle was taken apart. Which, as Ian Griggs has shown, was very hard to do. He also asks why did the Dallas Police not match this alleged palm print off the rifle to Oswald' s on the 22nd. Especially since Oswald had given the police such a print that day. (p. 81) He also asks a pertinent question first posed by the illustrious Sylvia Meagher. How did the FBI later match the palm print taken from the rifle to a palm print taken from a card? Wouldn' t the first be curved? (p. 82) I should add here, Hartwell mentions in passing the Barr McClellan/Walt Brown story about the matching of a previously unidentified print from the sixth floor to the late Mac Wallace. (p. 85) This was featured during the (quite disappointing) 40th anniversary installment of Nigel Turner' s The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Since I have taken a lot of time criticizing Reclaiming History, I should note here that Vincent Bugliosi does a creditable job on this issue. He called McClellan' s fingerprint expert Nathan Darby and told him there was a problem in his forensic methodology. The unidentified print from the sixth floor was a palm print. Yet, the prints Darby had from Wallace were his 1951 fingerprints. He asked Darby if he had developed some new technology to compare the two. Darby pleaded blind innocence. He said he was only given two fingerprints, one from a card and one a latent. He said, "I wasn' t given any palm print. They were both fingerprints. Of course, you can' t compare a palm print with a fingerprint." (Bugliosi, p. 923) Let me add this about the matter: from the moment I first saw him, I never liked Barr McClellan. He was too glib, too fast-talking, too confident and oh so convenient. He arrived out of the woodwork to attract and confuse the masses on the fortieth anniversary.

Hartwell goes on to raise some familiar questions about the murder of Officer Tippit, also – according to the Warren Commission – allegedly killed by Oswald. He recites the argument about the time factor working against Oswald. He was last seen by his landlady standing outside his rooming house at 1:04. Yet the most credible time placements of the Tippit murder are at around 1:09 or 1:10. The Warren Commission' s "probative" witness, Helen Markham, said the shooting happened at 1:06, a fact that Commission supporters, like Dale Myers, manage to discount when they defend her. (Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 254) Witness T . F. Bowley looked at his watch when he saw Tippit' s dead body on the street. It said 1:10. (Ibid) The late Larry Harris, a foremost expert on this case, told me that he thought the time of the murder was 1:09. This all makes it hard to believe Oswald could have been involved since the necessary distance traversed by him was about 9/10 of a mile. (Hartwell, pgs. 90-91) He would have had to be running or jogging the whole way. Which no one saw him do. (Meagher, p. 255) The author then goes into the confusing mélange of the ballistics evidence in the case. The bullets could not be matched to the gun, and the cartridges do not match the bullets: the shells were 2 Westerns and 2 Remingtons, while the bullets were 3 Westerns and 1 Remington. And he thankfully brings up the matter of the Oswald wallet found at the scene. (p. 92) Which creates an insurmountable problem for the Commission stalwarts. Because a.) Oswald would have never done this if he was the actual killer, and b.) The official story has Oswald' s wallet being discovered on the way to the station – while he left another wallet on the dresser at the Paines that morning. Which equals Oswald as the Man with Three Wallets. (See Reclaiming Parkland, First edition, pp. 101-105). This is powerful evidence that Oswald was not at the scene and was framed.

Using this as a cue, Hartwell then takes up an alternative view of the crime. He mentions the famous testimony of the witnesses who saw a man who resembled Oswald running down an embankment outside the Texas School Book Depository a few minutes after the murder. People like Roger Craig, Helen Forrest, Marvin Robinson, and Richard Carr all said essentially the same thing on this point. (p. 99) This Oswald double could have then been used in the Tippit murder, and then been the man who was seen early, at 1:00, by attendant Butch Burroughs at the Texas Theater. He was then escorted out of the back of the theater and was seen by witness Bernard Haire. (pgs 100-101)

Hartwell ends this discussion by asking some sensible questions about the Commission' s story. First, if Oswald was an ideologically motivated killer, why didn' t he admit it like other assassins e.g. Booth, James Guiteau, and Leon Czolgosz. (p. 101) If he meant to disguise his act why did he have the rifle and handgun shipped to a post office box with his name on it? When he could have purchased the rifle over the counter with cash, no questions asked. If he was planning on killing Kennedy, why is there no credible evidence of him target practicing in advance? How could he have been so sure that no one in the building would see him unwrap the weapon and assemble it? If he had planned the assassination, why didn' t he wear gloves? Why did he first drive in the taxi past his rooming house, and then rush inside it and leave so quickly? If he really shot both Kennedy and Tippit, why did he then not try and leave Dallas via bus? (pgs 103-104)

Hartwell concludes that the failure of the Commission to adequately address any of these important issues shows that their purpose was not to solve the crimes but to disseminate a cover story to be in turn picked up by the major media and force fed to the public. (p. 105) He also notes, as Deputy Consul for the House Select Committee on Assassinations Bob Tanenbaum did: the amount of evidence slanting used by the Commission was enormous. In other words, the Commission never selected evidence favorable to Oswald. If the case were as easy as the Commission states, this practice would not have been necessary. (p. 114)


The final case discussed by Hartwell is the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy in June of 1968. The author begins by outlining what most citizens consider the open and shut case against the convicted gunman Sirhan B. Sirhan: He was standing in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel with a gun amid 73 witnesses. Kennedy was struck down and later died. He then tells us Sirhan was convicted at trial after his lawyers stipulated to the evidence the prosecution presented against him. Hartwell notes this was done to aid in their plea of diminished capacity, which would have been difficult if they outlined a conspiracy. Sirhan was then sentenced to death but had his sentence altered to life in prison by decree of the Supreme Courts of both the United States and California.

The author begins to chip away at the prosecution' s case using the autopsy of Dr. Thomas Noguchi. Hartwell shows how the findings of Noguchi contrast significantly with what the best and closest eyewitnesses said happened. The four shots into RFK (one actually went through the top of his jacket) all came from behind and at very close range. Yet no witness said that Sirhan ever got behind Kennedy or that close to him. (p. 119) He also uses the quite credible testimony of hotel maitre d' Karl Uecker who said he grabbed Sirhan' s gun hand after the second shot. Therefore how could Sirhan have delivered the others with any degree of accuracy? (ibid)

Hartwell outlines the pros and cons of the case against security guard Thane Eugene Cesar as the actual assassin. (p. 122) And he later adds that the Los Angeles police treated him way too gently. He then goes to the testimony of Sandra Serrano and Lt. Paul Sharaga. (pgs. 123-124) These two witnesses begin to outline the role of the two accomplices who probably entered the Ambassador that night with Sirhan. And they also begin to outline the role of the Girl in the Polka Dot Dress. This is the woman seen with Sirhan prior to he shooting and who is part of his last memory before the shooting. A memory of drinking coffee with her and then following her out of the room and into the pantry. Properly, Hartwell then sketches the ordeal Serrano was put through at the hands of Lt. Hank Hernandez to make her withdraw her testimony. Lawyer Hartwell notes, this kind of brutal treatment is usually reserved for suspects, not witnesses. He also adds, that sometimes witnesses do misrepresent. But there is usually a discernible motive. There is none with Serrano. (p. 126)

Hartwell then describes how there were too many bullet holes in the pantry than were possibly emitted by Sirhan' s eight shot revolver. (p. 128) He even quotes infamous LAPD criminalist DeWayne Wolfer on this point: "It' s unbelievable how many holes there are in the kitchen ceiling." (p. 128) He adds that it turned out the LAPD could never clearly link any of the bullets in RFK to Sirhan' s weapon.

The author then analyzes four points offered up by critics of the LAPD: 1.) There were more than eight bullets fired, 2.) There was another gunman besides Sirhan 3.) There was a non-shooting accomplice 4.) Sirhan was hypnoprogrammed to do what he did. (p. 130) After giving the pluses and minuses of these issues he decides that the official theory does not hold up, and neither do the arguments of its supporters like Dan Moldea. (pgs 130-140) Finally, he uses the now famous Stanislaw Pruszynksi tape, recorded the night of the murder, as tested by audio technician Phil Van Praag. This tape is powerful evidence for there being too many shots fired that night and for them being too close together. (Click here for more on this.)

Hartwell produced this book on his own. There are the spelling mistakes, typos and spacing errors to prove it. And as I wrote in part 6 of my review of Reclaiming History, the issues involving the testimony of Wesley Frazier and Marrion Baker in the JFK case are even worse than what he deduces. But these things are easily forgiven since this is not a corporate effort, but a citizen' s book. A citizen who is greatly bothered by what has happened to his nation. How voting, as proven by Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, cannot be relied upon anymore. (p. 151) How trying to get elected officials to do something about serious government crimes does not work, since there is no upside in it for them. (p. 152) How the rather attractive alternative of moving elsewhere means leaving these troubling issues in America behind. And, as everyone knows, the MSM is no help. He proposes taking advantage of the new media to spread the word to others and the rest of the world. (ibid) It won' t be easy, but it is necessary. If not we will maintain the system that allows these crimes and they will continue to pollute the body politic. Which, as we see now, is harmful to us all. The evidence for that, as I noted at the start, is all around us.

When I finished the Afterword to The Assassinations I wrote that, as in Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, after the murder of RFK, those who believed in him and his cause felt like the stone was at the bottom of the hill. And they were alone. Today, we are not. History has caught up with some of the public. They don' t like what America has become either. In that regard, we need more people like Dean Hartwell. Because if The Assassinations was a pebble thrown into the polluted stream, this book provides another stepping-stone beyond it. And hopefully, one day, a man the stature of Carroll Quigley will arrive to trace the decline from November 1963, to March of 2003, filing out the entire canvas with color and perspective. In order to make the public face the fact that, yes the forces that killed the vibrant progressive energy of the sixties won, but what did they bring us? The answer is: Less than zero. Or as James Joyce once wrote for his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." Few who were alive in 1963 would argue the fact that the country we live in today does not resemble what we had then. Hartwell' s effort is that of a true patriot offering an attempt to bridge that gap and explain how it all happened. For the benefit of us all.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 22:09
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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