It’s the mother of all conspiracy tales – the assassination of President Kennedy. It’s a whodunit that’s been debated for nearly six decades. Was it Moscow, the CIA, the FBI, Lyndon Johnson, Fidel Castro, the mob? Or was it a lone nut, Lee Harvey Oswald?
Ottawa-based Fred Litwin’s latest book “I was a teenage JFK conspiracy freak” (NorthernBlues Books, 270 pgs) recounts how, more than forty years ago, he became obsessed with JFK assassination conspiracies, and then slowly, after researching, began believing that Oswald was the lone assassin.
He examines how both the left and right have peddled conspiracy theories, how the Russians tried to fool Americans about the assassination, why there are still documents hid away from the public, and how Oliver Stone’s film JFK had it all wrong, among other investigations.
Nov. 22, 2018, will mark 55 years since President Kennedy was killed in his motorcade in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.
Pursuit caught up with Litwin to discuss his book and conspiracies.
What’s the theme of the book?
Fred: I think the overall theme is that objective truth really counts. We have to rediscover the beauty of objective truth. It’s out there. Particularly in our Post-Modern world, we’ve forgotten that truth really matters.
How long have you been a devotee of JFK assassination theories?
Fred: Since I saw the Geraldo Rivera show (1975) when he showed the Zapruder film for the first time on national American TV. That got me hooked.
In the book, you intimate the Soviets attempted to influence the public’s opinion about the CIA and the assassination.
Fred: The Soviets made several attempts to influence public opinion. The first time was during the (prosecutor) Jim Garrison debacle in New Orleans when he was accusing Clay Shaw of conspiring to kill Kennedy. (The Communist Party of Italy) most probably planted in Italian newspaper accusations that Clay Shaw was associated with the CIA.
That article was seized by Jim Garrison as ‘proof’ that the CIA was behind the assassination. That helped to move him away from his ridiculous theory that homosexuals killed JFK. He started ranting and raving around the country around the CIA. That was one operation the Russians did, but not the only operation.
In 1975, the Russian forged a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald to a Mr. Hunt. They thought it would be a very interesting thing to do this. They thought the ‘Hunt’ was the ‘Howard Hunt’ of Watergate fame, who was also a CIA operative. They forged this letter and sent it off to JFK researchers who made it public. It backfired on the Russians because people thought it was ‘Howard Hunt’, the Texas multibillionaire.
The Soviets also paid Mark Lane 1960s, who was a big JFK critic. One of the documents I found in the Mark Lane file intimates that the Soviets did more in terms of working with the critics of the Warren Report. There is more to be discovered about what the Soviets did in Russian files in Moscow.
Why would the Russians care?
Fred: I don’t think they cared about the assassination. They loved the fact that they could blame, or make Americans wary, of the CIA. This is an easy thing to do. It doesn’t cost us very much. If it works, we’ll get the Americans criticizing the CIA.
You take aim at CBC for broadcasting inaccuracies – can you elaborate?
Fred: The Fifth Estate … has peddled the worst conspiracy theories you can find on CBC TV. They’ve done a horrible disservice over the years… (they) decided to stick with the worst conspiracy nonsense.
The mainstream media, for the most part, besides giving all the publicity to Oliver Stone in 1991, has been somewhat supportive of the Warren report since it’s been released.
The internet seems to be a pot of gold for conspiracy-steria. But you believe that kind of thing is dying down.
Fred: First off, we do see the fact that the polls show that support for a lone gunman is increasing. I think for two reasons. For the first time, you have books published by people who believe there was no conspiracy, which was not the case in the 1970s when I was first researching it. The only books in the library were conspiracy books.
Now, on Facebook, there are a whole variety of JFK groups – which I’m a member of – and the lone gunman people can fight back. They have a forum to fight back and present the evidence. I think it’s working in the sense that people are exposed for the first time – instead of just conspiracy nonsense – to some real evidence on the assassination. I think it’s slowly working.
Okay. A guy comes to an internet forum and he says, ‘here’s this schmo Oswald, far from being a marksman, with a clunky rifle from hundreds of feet away, and has mere seconds to lethally hit two tiny targets in a moving car – impossible!’
Fred: That’s a great question. That’s the kind of thing you do see on the internet, and that’s where you can actually unpack that and tell the truth. First off, Lee Harvey Oswald was a pretty good shot. He was a sharpshooter in the US Marines. He had far more time to do the shots than the conspiracy people say – they say he had 5.6 seconds; he probably had well over 8 seconds. The first shot was only at 55 yards; the second at only 80 yards (240 feet). If you go to Dealey Plaza and walk around, you’ll see how small it is. I was shocked. I went to Dealey Plaza for the first time this March, and when I got out of the taxi to walk around I thought I was in Legoland, it was so small.
So, people will make the statements like you’ve just made. Now, for the first time, the lone nut people can unpack it and say, ‘You are wrong about this, and that. Here’s the truth.’ So, on the margins, you are getting people to come around.
Why do you think Oswald left his gun – and fingerprints – at the scene?
Fred: He was probably as shocked as anyone. There was nothing he could do about it. He had no choice but to leave the evidence. It was hard to take it with him. He didn’t have enough time to take it apart and put it back in the bag he had and take it with him. But also, ‘What do I do now?’
I know that you are not a legal expert, but with all the evidence that is presented in all the books, would it have been a challenge to convict Oswald, had he lived through a trial?
Fred: I think it would have been an easy trial. I think it would have been over very quickly because the evidence was so overwhelming. The evidence was so vast.
You say the left went ‘slightly crazy’ after the assassination. How?
Fred: They were faced with the problem of a communist – someone on the left – killing Kennedy. I think a large part of the left – not Noam Chomsky, who never fell for any of this crap – but a large part of the left decided, ‘we have to find some other explanation as to who was Lee Harvey Oswald.’ They started to go through this, ‘Well, he really wasn’t on the left. He was actually a right-winger. He wasn’t actually pro-Castro, he was anti-Castro.’ They started to go through hoops that fit with their politics. This was the crazy left, not the good left.
And the rightwing, what’s their conspiracy take?
Fred: Some of the people who push that narrative of the Deep State, say, ‘Well, the JFK assassination, there’s a good example of the Deep State – the CIA and Military Industrial Complex – killing Kennedy.’ There’s a couple of right-wing websites, and of course, you have Roger Stone, who is the confidante who helped Trump get elected. He put out a book about how LBJ killed Kennedy. It’s a horrible book. I read it. Of course, once he wrote that book, he was on Fox and Friends, he was on Sean Hannity, he was on all the conservative shows who basically asked no tough questions.
There are still classified documents, right?
Fred: The fact is, the few remaining documents that are secret or redacted, there’s really nothing there that will shed light on anything related to the assassination. People keep hoping, and they can’t wait for the documents to be released, but there’s nothing there.
They are hiding documents were informants might still be alive; certain surveillance methods might not want to be exposed. People should read the final report of the assassination record review board, which was a board that was convened in the 1990s to declassify all the documents. You’ll find that the judge who headed it has seen all the documents that are still under wraps, and has told people that there is nothing in those documents. There is not a mystery left.