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House Select Committee on Assassinations
The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations was established in 1976 to investigate the John F. Kennedy assassination and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination. The Committee investigated until 1978, and in 1979 issued its final report.
The HSCA committee was a followup to the Hart-Schweiker and Church Committee hearings that had revealed CIA ties to other assassinations and assassination attempts. The HSCA also resulted from the public demands as a result of hundreds of books, magazine articles, and video documentaries completed by private citizens and professional investigators since 1963. The HSCA also resulted from the public outcry after the Zapruder film was first shown in motion on TV in March 1975 after having been stored by Life magazine out of view of the public for almost twelve years.
The HSCA concluded in its 1979 report that (emphasis added):
- Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President.
- Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Soviet Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Cuban Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.
- The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.
- The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
- Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not receive adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination was conducted. The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. the conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.
The Committee further concluded that it was probable that:
- four shots were fired
- the third shot came from a second assassin located on the grassy knoll, but missed.
The HSCA agreed with the single bullet theory, but that it occurred at a time point during the assassination that differed from any of the several time points the Warren Commission theorized it occurred.
The members of this probable conspiracy were not identified. However, the committee noted that it believed that the conspiracy did not include the governments of the Soviet Union or Cuba, nor the FBI, the CIA, or the Secret Service. It also stated it did not believe the conspiracy was organized by any organized crime group, nor any anti- Castro group, but that it could not rule out individual members of either of those groups acting together.
The Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, and the Warren Commission were all criticized for deficient job performance in their subsequent investigations, deficient in revealing to the Warren Commission information available in 1964, and the Secret Service was called deficient in their protection of the President.
The HSCA's conspiracy finding unraveled rapidly, however. The sole acoustic evidence relied on by the committee to support its theory of a fourth gunshot (and a gunman on the grassy knoll) was a Dictabelt recording alleged to be from a stuck transmitter on a police motorcycle in Dealey Plaza during the assassination. After the committee finished its work, however, an amateur researcher listened to the recording and discovered faint crosstalk of transmissions from another police radio channel known to have been made a minute after the assassination. Further, the Dallas motorcycle policeman thought to be the source of the sounds followed the motorcade to the hospital at high speed, his siren blaring, immediately after the shots were fired. Yet the recording is of a mostly idling motorcycle, eventually determined to have been at JFK's destination, the Trade Mart, miles from Dealey Plaza.
On the King assassination, the Committee concluded in its report that he was killed by one rifle shot from James Earl Ray, that "there is a likelihood" that this was the result of a conspiracy, and that no U.S. government agency was part of this conspiracy.
In particular, the various investigations performed by the U.S. government were faulted for insufficient consideration of the possibility of a conspiracy in each case. The Committee in its report also made recommendations for legislative and administrative improvements, including making some assassinations Federal crimes.
- Stokes, Louis (Chairman, House Select Committe on Assassinations). (29 March, 1979). Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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