Did the C.I.A. kill JFK? Why so many conspiracy theories?

Did the Central Intelligence Agency kill JFK? Why so many conspiracy theories?
My question is; is there some more recent evidence I should know about that the C.I.A. assassinated JFK?

My background:
I recently moved from Washington D.C. to California and I have found that most people, I meet here and ask the opinon of, are convinced that the C.I.A. Killed Kennedy. Some years ago I had a conversation with an employee of said Agency, who happened to be a statistician, he gave the JFK conspiracy theories as an example of peoples natural dislike of random occurrences of a violent nature.

His argument: People want answers they can feel comfortable with, and answers that leave them better able to anticipate risk in the future. A conspiracy, he argued, did this better then the Warren Commissions finding that Oswald had acted alone. He went on to explain that when people are confronted with a traumatic event they prefer a equally intense explanation of why the event occurred, like a conspiracy, as oppose to less palatable; it was a kook with a gun. In regards to risk assessment; real conspiracies of this sort are typically formed in relation to very important people or issues, not Joe Six-pack. Therefore if a conspiracy killed Kennedy then Joe Six-pack is probably safe. OTOH if JFK was killed by a kook with a gun then nobody is safe. So, he concluded, a world where conspiracies subvert the government and assassinate our elected officials, is preferable to a world in which one can die, or be killed, without warning for little or no reason. Thus the preponderance of conspiracy theories around socially traumatic events or deaths.

“How do we know the CIA wasn’t responsible for the Kennedy assassination?”
“He’s dead, isn’t he?”
–Neil Gaimen, American Gods

It’s easier for people who are downtrodden to believe their fate is due to the evil nasty mechanizations of a secret band of conspirators. Sometimes this is true (Richard Melon-Scafe and the anti-Clinton cabal), but most of the time it’s just a handy mental dodge.

I have to agree so far. Conspiracy theories do indeed make the world seem more rational (if more sinister) to many people. I see it as almost an extension of the older, natural desires that produced religion - “everything has to happen for a reason,” “somebody has to be in charge,” etc. Also, they make the theorists feel clever because they, and only they, have figured out why the world (or events in it) work as it does, whereas most people are befuddled by it.

I started my own thread about JFK 2 1/2 months ago - although my intent was to ask “hey, why doesn’t Cecil take on this question,” not compare theories. Still, it was quite informative, and to me at least, entirely persuasive that Oswald shot Kennedy for his own reasons.

It’s also a sort of twisted compliment as to the greatness of the poor guy who’s been killed. Surely a schmuck like Oswald couldn’t have acted alone to take out the glamourous Jack? How could the dreams of a Nobel Laureate like King be cut short by some cracker with a rifle? etc. etc.

Oswald definitely fired the shots.

He was in the 6th floor of the depository at the time, and the best evidence shows that 3 shots were fired from there and no others. His motive is clear, as he had also attempted to take the life of General Edwin Walker. Oswald was a communist, and hated Walker (a supporter of the John Birch Society), and also JFK for his opposition to Cuba (Oswald was a huge Castro supporter.)

There could be no conspiracy, as nobody would trust Oswald to do anything right. His life is a series of incompetent acts and failures, and he was mentally whacked. So the CIA would never have trusted the guy.

For a great account of Oswald’s life, and a thorough debunking of all conspiracy theories on the subject, read Posner’s Case Closed. An excellent book that lays all the nonsense to rest. (I also recommend Posner’s book on the MLK assassination, Killing the Dream, which does much the same…the same conspiracy nuts, like Mark Lane, seem to get involved with both, so a debunking was good there too.)

What RexDart said. Both Posner books are highly informative and enjoyable reads.

Consider, also, that in another month or so it will have been 40 years since President Kennedy was murdered. That is an awful long time to keep a lid on some grand conspiracy. By now you would think that somebody would have made a death bed confession or succumb to the temptation to make really big bucks with an “inside source tells all” book. There is no evidence of such a conspiracy. “I just bet the CID did it,” is not evidence. Oliver Stone movies are not evidence, either.

Wow… Thanks for ruining my whole perspective on life… That was worse than when my parents told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus…


I think I should point out that in Santa Cruz, blaming the C.I.A. for the evils of the world is the municipal pasttime.

The most probable reason why so many conspiracy theories exist and persist may be because every single member of the Warren Commission had about as much understanding of junior high school physics as its least intelligent member, Gerald Ford.

Originally selected by President Lyndon Johnson to keep the Commission bipartisan, LBJ’s semi privately held view at that time was that Gerald Ford couldn’t break wind and chew gum at the same time.

The pristine (almost) bullet that is supposed to have performed impossible miracles in penetrating and departing from several bodies and limbs is probably the single most important factor that keeps the questioning of the official version alive.

In other words, the Warren Commission explanation which relies on the “magic bullet” is easy to disbelieve because it depends so much on a violation of basic physical laws.

As to why such a fuss should be made over the death of such a second rate politician as JFK I’ll leave to others to ruminate upon.

The “magic bullet” theory isn’t so magical if you actually examine the evidence and see that it caused all those wounds by following a straight line, which bullets tend to do.

The reason there’s so many conspiracy theories about JFK was best summed up by the absolute tons of crap that has been written about Kennedy and his mediocre family and the whole “Camelot” nonsense; he has been absolutely deified since his death. There was a hysterically funny part on the movie “Primary Colors” where one of the compaign workers wistfully comments that they have nobody to believe in, but the last generation, well, they had Kennedy. That Kennedy was a lousy President has been largely forgotten.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but I don’t believe the conspiracy theories became popular until quite a few years after Kennedy died. Immediately following his death most people accepted the simple truth, which is that Kennedy was killed by a nut. But as Kennedy’s legend grew he became more God than man, and so it became increasingly difficult for people to accept that he was slain in an act of violence as pointless and as pedestrian as a mugging. Gods cannot be slain by mere mortals. When he was perceived as a mortal, people could accept it. But he became a god, so they couldn’t, and a nonsensical web of “magic bullets” and phantom assassins and total nonsense was weaved to salve the wound.

Of course, those who have pointed out that conspiracies make the world a more explainable place have it right too. It’s easier to blame the evil Jews for taking away your job than it is to comprehend a world of confusing economic forces. It’s easier to say the CIA invented crack to kill thhe black man than to comprehend the sociological forces behind the drug trade. It’s easier to say the aliens are abducting you nightly than to accept that you need to start taking lithium. And it’s easier to say your God was murdered by a vast conspiracy of bad guys than to accept that violence can, and does, take our loved ones from us at wholly random, unpredictable times. It’s easier, and it gives form and explanation and a little drama to things that DON’T have form or easy explanation. It’s hard to visualize microeconomics, but it’s easy to visualize Evil Jews.

I’m not as absolutely sure as you guys. The more one studies it the more WTF? moments one has, for instance: Why was Oswald allowed back in the US with a single FBI interview and no CIA interview that they will admit to (apparently one CIA person did talk to him) after defecting loudly and bringing information from the U2 base on which he worked that may have helped the Soviets shoot down Powers?

I could go on. There are many questions that are still unanswered and while it is easy and comforting to dismiss everybody who asks these questions as paranoid and seeking “a handy mental dodge” I prefer to keep my mind open to all possibilities. While some “assasination buffs” also believe in UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster a conspiracy of this scale is not farfetched nor does it violate any accepted scientific principles. Asking questions does not make one a “tinfoil hatter.”

I find JFK stuff mainly tedious, but the single bullet theory involves anything but a straight line. The damn thing is supposed to have zigzagged all over the place entering and leaving bodies and limbs while remaining relatively intact when found alongside a stretcher at the hospital. Bullets do not remain intact after such abuse in real life.

The investigation was as sloppy as hell and for all we know any theory could have been cooked up by stressed out civil servants on the spur of the moment. After all, if the press is clamouring for an instant explanation why not give them one, then find the backup evidence later.

The main problem may be related to the fact that the US President wields as much power as a medieval monarch and people of his political persuasion may tend to develop a worshipful attitude towards him. This may possibly have tended to cloud their judgement in the initial stages of the investigation when the “King” was dead, as it were.

Anyway, I am not completely convinced I am right in this, but just consider it as a possibility.

I think it’s interesting that when this question comes up here at the SDMB, there’s near unanimous agreement with the Lone Nut theory. Bring out just about any other topic - Jews and Arabs, Conservatives and Liberals, etc. - and there are a range of viewpoints, indicating that these are things on which reasonable people can disagree. But the Kennedy assassination, there’s hardly any disagreement - Oswald acted alone. I think it indicates that with reasonable, thoughtful people who have actually looked into the matter, there is only one conclusion that can hold water.

Anyway, your friend’s observation that it’s hard for people to accept that some “silly little communist” as Jackie said, took out the chief executive of the most powerful nation on earth, is right on the money.

I’ve found when talking to people I know that yes, most people believe it was a conspiracy, but they don’t hold that belief strongly. They just haven’t investigated for themselves. They’ve seen JFK the movie and have spent years hearing talk about it, and the talk that’s heard is almost all conspiracy-oriented. I can usually get some traction by saying something like “you know, I’ve spent some time researching the assassination, and I am absolutely convinced that I now know what happened. Oswald was an unstable nut who took it upon himself to kill Kennedy.” Most people respect my opinion enough that if I tell them this, they at least accept it as a viable theory.

As to the question of when a conspiracy theory was widely believed, the ideas had been there since day one, but just simmered in the background. During the distrusting, post-Watergate days of the 1970s (at which time I was a suggestible teenager), the conspiracy ideas started gaining wider acceptance.

Here you’re depending on the evidence presented by Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone, but it’s wrong. The path from the sixth floor window, through Kennedy’s neck, through the right side of Connolly’s chest, was in fact a straight line. This has been demonstrated multiple times. It was relatively intact because the trip through Kennedy’s neck (soft tissue) slowed it down without damaging it, so that by the time it entered Connolly, it wasn’t going fast enough to be damaged more. You can read all about it at John McAdams’ Single Bullet Theory page. That whole site is a treasure trove of reliable information about the assassination.

Let me start by saying that I think Oswald was alone and I think that Elvis is dead too. But that said:

Why are their so many conspiracy theories?

For the sake of argument, suppose the CIA DID kill JFK. If they did, you know what the best way to cover it up would be?

Promulgate a bunch of different theories on who killed JFK – the mafia, LBJ, the Soviets, the Cubans, Jack Ruby, etcetera.

The result of this is that the average citizen would have no good way to sort through it all, throw up their hands and say “all these theories just come from nut cases”.

I heard the same thing suggested when Elvis was believed to be alive–the fact that their were so many Elvis impersonators was sited as proof. This way, Elvis could be out there, working as an impersonator, but we wouldn’t know which one was the real Elvis. He could still be Elvis, but be out of the public glare, which was why he staged his death.

The more likely explanation is that sombody in the Bureau fucked up. I can imagine a lot of post-Dallas secrecy as agents try to cover their asses for making a mistake, rather than cover their complicity in letting Oswald back into the country with minimal investigation. Better to claim you never actually talked to Oswald than that you talked to him and thought he was harmless. Besides, what’s the basis of the conspiracy angle? Somebody in the FBI thought “Hey, this guy might come in handy in case we need to whack a President someday. May as well rubber-stamp him.”

Bullets are notoriously unpredictable, though, and you’re making an error in logic. If you are dealt a hand in bridge, the odds of getting that specific hand are billions to one against, but that doesn’t mean that getting that hand is impossible. It may be highly improbable, but impossible? Nah.

Look at your fingerprints. Do you know what the odds are that would get those specific patterns? Astronomical. Therefore, your fingers don’t exist and I don’t expect you to type a reply anytime soon.


I’ve done a google on “kennedy magic bullet diagram” and got a huge number of hits . First in line being This

Four body penetrations and changes of direction by the magic bullet, including bony body parts.

As I said before, I have little interest in the subject, but I refuse to believe in something absolutely and totally implausible (ie. impossible).

That is not to say that I wish to theorise about the plausibility of other explanations. I merely rule out obvious nonsensical explanations from consideration.

Oh come on. Whether you think he was any good as a politician or not, this is not so hard to understand. There’s the way he represented an ideal (young, rich, good-looking, etc.), and maybe most importantly for the “fuss,” he was shot dead in front of thousands of people. That kind of makes for a big deal. Exactly how many presidents have you seen assassinated?

This resembles reality only superficially. It took Oswald over a year to receive permission to return to the U.S., which is pretty darned unusual if you consider that the guy was still an American citizen. Oswald was debriefed at some length by the FBI upon his arrival back in the U.S. The FBI kept in continuing contact with Lee and Marina (though the bureaucracy lost track of them for a few months when the Oswalds moved to New Orleans). Just a few days before the assassination, Oswald angrily called FBI agent James (?) Hosty to tell him to stop harrassing Marina. Hell, Oswald blamed his continual loss of jobs on FBI harrassment (though in reality, he kept getting fired because he was lazy and an obvious nutcase).

Should the FBI have kept better track of Oswald? In retrospect, absolutely. But the agency didn’t really put a high priority on keeping track of nut jobs. They were concerned about communist spies, which they correctly concluded Oswald was not. The guy wasn’t even tied in to any of the American communist groups. He was just a lone, self-styled Marxist whose life would have been utterly forgettable if he hadn’t decided to become a one-man revolution machine.

I bet there’s not as many as you think. The conspiracists raise any number of questions, but they aren’t real good about publicizing the answers. They just move on to the next question. If you have questions, ask away.

Certainly not. But refusing to accept the well-documented answers to those questions and ignoring the overwhelming weight of the evidence that shows Oswald did it all by himself . . . that’s what makes someone a tinfoil hatter.