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The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination

By Philip Shenon

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9420-6
Publisher: Henry Holt

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination comes this startling book, which deepens the case for conspiracy while turning some existing conspiracy theories on their heads.

In 1964, the Warren Commission promulgated the lone-gunman theory of the assassination, which held that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing the president. Former New York Times reporter Shenon, who had previously investigated the investigators in The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation (2008), writes that he was approached by a lawyer who had worked, as a young man, for the Warren Commission and who said that other once-young men had stories to tell before they passed on. Their stories are several; blended with the author’s own five-year campaign of reporting and research, they do not speak well for the nation’s intelligence services. (Whether things have gotten better or worse since then will be a matter of debate.) The aristocratic CIA competed with the blue-collar FBI for control of evidence and narrative; each agency had eyes on Oswald, but neither acted properly to contain him, even as Oswald, unlike other American soldiers who defected to the Soviet Union, was placed under special surveillance. Had either acted on available intelligence and arrested Oswald while he was in Mexico City in September 1963, the assassination might have been averted. As it was, writes Shenon, in Mexico, Oswald came under the sway of a woman who may have put him to work as an agent of Fidel Castro’s government: “There is no absolute proof…that Silvia Duran was anyone’s spy,” he writes, “although there was clearly plenty of suspicion about it in 1963 and 1964.” There seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest, though, that the intelligence agencies destroyed valuable documentation after the killing in a rush to cover up incompetence.

The reader emerges from this complex narrative feeling that the case is not quite settled, but Shenon has helped us get further than we’ve been before.