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The Commission

Vincent Dowd revisits the report on John F. Kennedy's assassination, and asks some of those who worked on it what they believe.

President John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas on 22nd November 1963. Shortly afterwards the 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, initially for the murder of a police officer. Within hours he was charged with assassinating the president. Two days later, although in police custody, Oswald was shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

The new president Lyndon B. Johnson quickly set up a commission under US Chief Justice Earl Warren. Its job was to investigate the murder of the president and circumstances surrounding it. The Warren Commission presented its findings 10 months later. After the report came out in September 1964 critical voices soon emerged. The critics often asked if behind the scenes Earl Warren had been briefed to conclude that Oswald had been the assassin, that he had had no co-conspirators and that the murder had been the work of a deranged mind and was without political motivation.

It is 54 years since the report emerged and those who worked on it are mainly no longer alive. But Vincent Dowd speaks to three men who worked on the report, now in their 80s - Burt Griffin, Sam Stern and Howard P.Willens - who now openly consider its merits and whether it uncovered the truth.

Was their job to support a narrative which Lyndon Johnson wanted the American public to accept? Has anything which has emerged since the report’s writing changed their minds? And did the nature of the Commission mean it was always bound to deliver what was in effect a guilty verdict on a man who conveniently had taken to the grave anything he might have revealed had he lived.

(Photo: Chief Justice Earl Warren hands President Lyndon B Johnson at the White House the Warren Commission's voluminous report on the assassination of President John F Kennedy, 24 September, 1964. Credit: Cecil Stoughton/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

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26 minutes

Last on

Mon 18 Jun 2018 05:06GMT


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