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A FRAGMENT OF TRUTH?

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Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999


A New Look at CE 567


©Joseph Backes
and Debra Conway

 

Recently, Warren Commission Exhibit 567 has become a very interesting piece of evidence in the JFK assassination. What is CE 567? CE 567 is a bullet fragment. Photos

 It was found in the presidential limousine after an inspection of that vehicle by Assistant Special Agent In-Charge (ASAIC) of the White House Detail Floyd Boring and Deputy Chief of the Secret Service Mr. Paul J. Paterni. 1 This inspection occurred in the White House garage on the night of the assassination, beginning at 10:10 p.m. and lasting until 12:01 a.m. Nov. 22, 1963. Boring and Paterni brought this bullet fragment to the attention of SS liaison officer with the FBI, Orin Bartlet, who personally brought it to the FBI lab delivering it to FBI agent Robert Frazier.2 This inspection occurred after the car was at least partially cleaned and washed up while parked at the Parkland emergency entrance. 3

Prior to Boring and Paterni's inspection, SS agent Sam Kiney examined the limousine while onboard a C-130 transport that was taking the presidential vehicle back to D.C. And Boring's inspection occurred prior to an official FBI inspection which started at 1:00 a.m. Nov. 23, 1963.

According to the Warren Commission's version of the assassination there were three shots: One missed all occupants of the presidential limousine and the limousine itself, one became the highly controversial CE 399, the magic bullet, inflicting all the non fatal wounds in President Kennedy and Connally, and the third and final shot hitting President Kennedy in the head and killing him. This bullet fragment is believed to be from the bullet that hit JFK in the head.

Supposedly, this bullet fragmented when it hit President Kennedy in the head. This in itself is odd as the bullets were supposedly all copper jacketed lead core military type ammunition designed not to fragment. And "officially" CE 399 hit hard bone in Governor Connally, striking his 5th rib, breaking off a five inch piece, then continued on and hit his wrist --yet did not fragment at all.

FBI agent Robert Frazier testified to the Warren Commission that CE 567, "consists of a piece of the jacket portion of a bullet from the nose area and a piece of the lead core from under the jacket." 4 Frazier based his conclusion that this is from the nose area of a bullet based on "the fact that the bullet has a rounded contour to it which has not been mutilated."5

Interestingly, Frazier himself mentions seeing substances on both front seat fragments (CE 567 and CE 569) in his Warren Commission testimony:

 



Mr. EISENBERG. Getting back to the two bullet fragments mentioned, Mr. Frazier, did you alter them in any way after they had been received in the laboratory, by way of cleaning or otherwise?

Mr. FRAZIER. No, sir; there was a very slight residue of blood or some other material adhering, but it did not interfere with the examination. It was wiped off to clean up the bullet for examination, but it actually would not have been necessary.

Mr. EISENBERG. Is that true on both fragments?

Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, sir.

Mr. EISENBERG. You also mentioned there was blood or some other substance on the bullet marked 399. Is this an off-hand determination, or was there a test to determine what the substance was?

Mr. FRAZIER. No, there was no test made of the materials. 6

 

It's possible that the material Frazier refers to as having been wiped of CE 567 was kept with the bullet fragment, all of which being considered CE 567.

Ignoring its history for the moment, someone brought to the attention of Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995 that this fragment may have embedded in it tiny strands of fiber that this unknown writer believed came from President Kennedy's shirt collar.

In January 1996, John Keeney, Acting Assistant Attorney General, wrote to FBI Director Louis Freeh requesting that the FBI "Initiate an inquiry into specific aspects of the assassination theory related to collected bullet fragments and residues now in the possession of the federal government."7

Who made this request to Janet Reno is unknown to this author. What -- if anything -- was done by the FBI or if this was handled, or was attempted to be handled separate from the activities of the Assassination Record Review Board (ARRB), is unknown to this author. UPDATE!! Former FBI Agent John T. Orr, author of "Analysis of Gunshots in Dealey Plaza," his independent researcher convinced the FBI to conduct additional testing on JFK evidence as late as 1997.

At some point the ARRB, per its congressional mandate to open up the Kennedy assassination files, found that the Firearms Examination Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, a Congressional committee that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy as well as Dr. King's assassination in the 1970's, recommended analysis of CE 567 19 years ago. "For unknown reasons the Panel's recommendation did not appear in the HSCA's March 1979 final report." 8

The ARRB investigated by contacting former HSCA staff members to determine why this recommendation was deleted from the report. No one knew why the recommendation was deleted.

According to Joe Freeman, an ARRB staffer who located the HSCA Firearms Panel members, no one could remember seeing residue, or they didn't think it was important at the time. The member who made the recommendation, John Bates, remembered only after Freeman refreshed his memory. No follow-up on the testing recommendation was done as far as any of them knew.9

In March 1996, the ARRB, the FBI, the Dept. of Justice and NARA began a series of meetings to discuss re-examination of the ballistic evidence. In June of 1996, the FBI provided a report to the Board stating that an analysis could be conducted on the fibers adhering to CE 567 and the materials composing the shirt and tie the president wore when assassinated.

The ARRB's Final Report is kind to NARA, but after more than two years of obstruction NARA finally agreed to limited testing of CE 567 to complete the earlier HSCA recommendation. NARA appears to have decided what to test and how. Of note is NARA's determination to also study CE 567 for "suspected biological tissue and/or organic material, the presence of which was noted by the HSCA in 1978 and by the FBI in 1996."10

The Archives issued a press release announcing that CE 567 would be tested on August 13th, 1998. They describe CE 567 as five fragments -- one large copper and lead fragment and four smaller pieces of possibly organic material. They stated that the bullet fragment still has "fibrous/plant debris adhering to it. The NARA press release stresses that the testing will be done on the fibrous material on the bullet fragment, not the fragment itself, and on the four small pieces of possibly organic material.

This press release quotes Archivist of the United States, John Carlin, "Although NARA initially was reluctant to engage in any testing that might alter an evidence item I was persuaded to the contrary by the Review Board's finding that the testing of the fiber was recommended by the Firearms Examination Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979. This recommendation was not in the published Final Report of the Committee and thus the testing was never done. I agree with the Board that conducting limited testing to complete this unfinished business, is in the public interest." 11

It only took two years to get Carlin to allow the testing to take place.

The release goes on to state that the material in question might be from clothing the president was wearing or it might be from material the bullet fragment was wrapped in, or the tests may prove inconclusive.

I found this line troubling, "NARA choose the FBI laboratories for the analysis as the best equipped and most expertly staffed for the purpose." The FBI lab is not accredited with any institution and has been heavily criticized lately.

The ARRB was to select one or more independent observers to verify the appropriateness of the procedure and to be present throughout the testing, each phrase of which will be thoroughly documented.

According to Doug Horne, former ARRB Senior Staffer, one observer was Tracy Shycoff, the former Deputy Director was selected for this duty, along with Freeman who attended the preliminary examination by the FBI. These two ARRB staffers are hardly qualified to "verify the appropriateness of the procedure," nor were they "present throughout the testing," as testing continued with the AFIP after the FBI's testing.

I would like to see the documentation of the testing. It begs the question where would one get it from? I would hope such material would be classified as assassination records and placed in the collection. But it is unknown if this was done.

The ARRB's Final Report shows a black and white photograph of CE 567. No photo accompanied the NARA press release.
The very issue of this ongoing testing may be one of several reasons why both Mr. Carlin and Mr. Steve Tilley suddenly left the room (in the original archives) during the ARRB's press conference once handed a copy of the ARRB's Final Report and did not take any questions.

I was unaware of the exact nature of what was being tested, foolishly relying on the poorly reproduced photo in the ARRB's Final Report. Imagine my shock when researcher Vern Pascall provided me with color copies of photographs of CE 567 he ordered from the Archives. We are not merely talking about fibers adhering to CE 567, nor tiny microscopic particles embedded in CE 567. There are four large particles of organic material with the bullet fragment in the pictures of CE 567! I say again, FOUR LARGE PARTICLES! They are separate and distinct from the bullet fragment, and appear to be separate from each other. The four large particles are almost the size of the bullet fragment itself.

These four particles appear to adhere to each other slightly. There appears to be cotton wadding fiber attached to this material. The fibers are attached to them, not CE 567. If any fibers are attached to the bullet fragment they were not readily apparent to this author viewing the color photos.

What is this material and where did it come from? There is no mention of such organic material being part of CE 567 in the Warren Commission volumes. Whatever was in the HSCA was buried and may only now be available. I don't know of any RIF document numbers that might pertain to CE 567. I look forward to seeing the exact documentation of the HSCA's original recommendations.

The ARRB closed up shop September 30th, 1998.

On February 19th, 1999 NARA announced a statement on the status of the lab testing on CE 567. "Examination of four small pieces of possibly organic material showed that the material consisted of human tissue in varying states of preservation. Samples were taken of each of the four pieces and were submitted to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory for mitochondrial DNA analysis. The initial tests were inconclusive, so additional samples were submitted for analysis. NARA has monitored the testing and awaits the final results of the tests.Results of these tests may be compared to DNA samples from other Warren Commission exhibits."12

It needs to be stressed that each of the four "possible organic fragments had samples removed from them twice. Once for the FBI test, and now once for the Air Force DNA ID lab.

On February 20th, Michael Dorman, staff writer for Newsday wrote an article on this which rather sensationalized the story and added some confusion. Dorman wrote that federal officials "may soon ask blood relatives of President John F. Kennedy and the late Texas Gov. John Connally to submit body tissue samples for DNA tests aimed at resolving lingering questions about the Kennedy assassination." 13

To date it is unknown if any federal officials have asked for such samples from blood relatives of either President Kennedy or Governor Connally.

Dorman quotes Steve Tilley, the archivist in charge of the JFK Records Collection, who despite NARA's own statement that the material is human states, "The FBI laboratory was unable to identify the material. We know the material is organic - but that's about it. The next step is for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to conduct DNA tests." 14 Thus, downplaying and casting doubt that the material is human.

Dorman then raises the key issue: Could this bullet fragment prove the existence of a fourth shot, and thus, finally a conspiracy?

Remember, officially, there were three shots, one missed, two becomes CE 399, the magic bullet, inflicting all the non-fatal wound in JFK and Connally, and three hits JFK in the head killing him. This head shot fragmented, so officially CE567 must be from the head shot, as CE 399 did not fragment.

Dorman consults with Secret Service agent Lem Johns. As there is some kind of fiber attached to the bullet fragment, and the organic particles, and there is a nick in the tie JFK was wearing when assassinated Johns believes the fragment may have been a bullet that hit the tie. Since CE 399 did not fragment, and as the Warren Commission postulated, passed through JFK's neck, we would have another shot to the neck area, thus a fourth shot.

However, Johns' statement ignores some solid facts. Harold Weisberg proves in his book Post Mortem  that the tie was nicked not by a bullet but by a scalpel as the clothes were cut away in order to expedite resuscitative measures at Parkland hospital. In addition, the collar -- which some mistakenly believe the bullet also passed through as it then went on to braise the knot in the necktie -- likewise does not contain holes. These are slits and they do not match up or correspond with each other indicating the path of one item through the collar.

And of more importance is the fact that Dr. Kemp Clark repeatedly stated in a press conference at Parkland hospital that the neck wound was one of entrance.15 He was by no means alone in that assessment.

However, the possibility remains that CE 567's organic materials could prove a fourth shot. As previously stated CE 567 is believed to be from the head shot. Therefore, it is inconceivable for any Connally material to be adhering to CE 567. As all of Connally's wounds are attributed to CE 399, if this organic material comes from Connally then we have a whole new ballgame.

Endnotes

1.) ARRB interview with Floyd Boring by ARRB staffers Dr. Joan Zimmerman and Doug Horne, September 18th, 1996. See MD # 259 in ARRB medical materials released to the public July 31,1998. BACK
2.) 3H 435 BACK
3.) See LIFE magazine November 1983 p. 56-57 wherein a previously unpublished photograph clearly shows a metal bucket by the foot of a motorcycle policeman. Another unidentified man is leaning half into the car apparently cleaning the limousine. BACK
4.) 3H p. 432-436 BACK
5.) IBID BACK
6.) 3H p. 437 BACK
7.) Assassination Records Review Board Final Report p. 127 BACK
8.) IBID BACK
9.) Interview of Joe Freeman by Debra Conway, March 23, 1999. BACK
10.) ARRB Final Report p. 128 BACK
11.) NARA press release August 13, 1998 "Lab Test on Kennedy Assassination Evidence Announced by National Archives and Records Administration. BACK
12.) National Archives Statement on Status of Lab Test on Kennedy Assassination Evidence dated February 19, 1999 . BACK
13.) "DNA Tests On A JFK Bullet? / Relatives may give samples Newsday 2/21/99 BACK
14.) IBID BACK
15.) See Press Conference 1327-C, from the traveling White House. This is the first press conference of the LBJ Administration and is available from the LBJ Library. BACK

CE 567 is pictured in WC Volume 17 p. 256.

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