Reply to Ken Rahn's critique of Stewart Galanor's book Cover-Up
Rex Bradford, 5 June 1999
As a participant in the 1999 Providence Conference, where I
met both Ken Rahn and Stewart Galanor for the first time, I feel compelled to
respond to Mr. Rahn's critique of Mr. Galanor's book, recently posted on the
Internet. In the interest of sparing both myself and potential readers a lengthy
point-by-point analysis of this critique, I will limit myself to discussion of a
single one of the major points, and follow this with a few general comments.
One of the more important aspects of the assassination topic, and featured prominently in Ken Rahn's critique, is the location of the wound in the back/neck. That something which should be so simple has engendered so much controversy it itself illuminating, in my opinion. The exact location of this wound is important, of course, because if it is too "low," it would be implausible for a Single Bullet to have been fired from the 6th floor of the Book Depository, enter at this location, and exit through the neck wound.
On page 22 of Cover-Up, Mr. Galanor provides some of the evidence for a "low" back wound. This includes:
1. The "low" placement of a
wound marker during the 1964 FBI re-enactment tests.
2. The graphic location of a mark on the autopsy descriptive sheet.
3. The location of holes in the President's shirt and coat.
4. Testimony of Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who described viewing JFK’s back wound at the autopsy.
5. The Death Certificate made out by White House Physician Dr. Burkley, placing the wound at "about the level of the third thoracic vertebra."
According to Mr. Rahn, Galanor has ignored "three critical and irrefutable pieces of clear, simple evidence." These are:
The autopsy report's written description of the back/neck wound, which located
it 14 cm from the tip of the right acromium process and 14 cm below the tip of
the right mastoid process.
2. The "fact" that markings on face sheets are schematic only.
3. The statement in the autopsy report that the wound was "just above the upper border of the scapula."
Point 1 is indeed worth considering. This written wound
location is present in both the autopsy descriptive sheet (face sheet) and the
Autopsy Protocol. The problem is that this description tries to fix the location
of a point on the back by reference to one on the head. Since the head is
jointed, there are obviously many places on the back which match this
description, depending on the tilt of the head. Mr. Rahn might well respond that
the written location is obviously meant to be with reference to an erect head.
My response is that this would be speculation. In my opinion such a description
of a wound's location is worth considering but hardly definitive, and it is
curiously ambiguous to boot, particularly in light of other evidence which fixes
the wound location differently. On the subject of whether such a method of
location is unusual, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) Medical
Panel's report notes the "failure to localize this wound relative to the
usually accepted fixed body landmarks."
Point 2 doesn't seem to belong in the list. The "fact" that the location of markings on autopsy face sheets are schematic only, and should not be taken as evidence of a particular exact position, is fair enough although arguable. However, this is a criticism of Galanor's use of this evidence, not "evidence which Galanor has ignored."
Point 3 is again factual in nature, and should be weighed among other evidence when determining the location of the back wound.
Mr. Rahn follows his three points with this amazing statement: "In the face of this evidence, to pretend that the back wound is anything but high is completely untenable. The eyewitness reports, photographs, and locations of holes in jacket and shirt that Galanor (and others) use while ignoring this clearly superior evidence are clearly subservient to this "best evidence" from the autopsy."
Mr. Rahn has put forth the proposition that two
written measurements, both of them somewhat ambiguous in their description, are
"better evidence" than photographs from the autopsy. This position is
simply astonishing. I assume this doesn't mean that he believes that the autopsy
photos have been faked or altered. He must mean that they are subject to
misinterpretation. They are available, printed in the book Best
Evidence and elsewhere. Look for yourself and see whether you think they
match the "high wound" as depicted in Warren Commission Exhibit 386,
the drawing made under Dr. Humes' supervision in preparation for his Warren
Commission testimony. Also see the HSCA's Medical Panel's report, which details
the analyses of the autopsy photographs performed in order to deduce its (lower)
back wound location.
The HSCA's nine-member Medical Panel reviewed these photographs, as well as X-rays and testimony, and disagreed with Mr. Rahn's ranking of the evidence. It placed this wound "approximately 5 centimeters below the shoulder and 5 centimeters to the right of the midline of the back," and went on to note "damage to the transverse process of the lower cervical and first thoracic vertebras." This location is anatomically lower than the neck wound, and the panel's report noted that "the abrasion collar is larger at the lower margin of the wound, evidence that the bullet's trajectory at the instant of penetration was slightly upward in relation to the body." Dr. Baden, head of the panel, postulated in a 1988 NOVA program that JFK must have been leaning over in order for a shot from the 6th floor of the Book Depository to have accomplished its Single Bullet task. Of course, the Zapruder film shows no such leaning on the part of the President, although Kennedy is hidden behind a freeway sign for 0.9 seconds and could have quickly bent down to tie his shoes or something. In any case, the HSCA's medical experts clearly disagreed with the "high" location which Mr. Rahn finds so simple and irrefutable.
There is other evidence for a low back wound, uncited by Galanor. This includes the FBI report of the autopsy, which states "During the latter stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column." The report goes on to describe unsuccessful efforts to find a path for this bullet through the body. In his 1997 deposition to the Assassination Records Review Board, FBI agent Sibert was adamant about the "low" location of this back wound and the impossibility of the Single Bullet Theory (yes, this deposition is 34 years later, fine, too bad he was never deposed in the previous 34 years).
As a slight but relevant digression, I would note that the Autopsy Protocol also clearly places the fatal head entrance wound "approximately 2.5 cm. laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance." The Clark Panel and HSCA, reviewing autopsy photographs and X-rays, refuted this location also, placing this wound in the cowlick nearly 4 inches higher. Does Mr. Rahn believe that the autopsy report in this case as well is "clear, irrefutable evidence," and dispute the nine distinguished forensic pathologists of the HSCA? If instead he sides with the HSCA Medical Panel, how does he then consider the autopsy report's other wound location to be so irrefutable if this one is not? Or if he sides with the autopsy doctors against the Medical Panel, does he have a theory on how this low head entrance wound caused metal fragments to appear in a line along the top the skull? There doesn't appear to be a way to believe in the infallibility of the autopsy doctors' measurements and also maintain a credible lone-shooter analysis.
It seems clear to me, and each reader will decide for himself or herself, that the written wound locations on the autopsy face sheet and report are not "irrefutable best evidence" which trump photographs and eyewitness testimony and other evidence. These are, after all, the written notes of a man, not stone tablets handed down by God. To elevate this evidence to such a degree, and ignore or ridicule all other evidence of a low back wound, doesn't strike me as sensible reasoning.
Enough said on the location of the back wound. What
prompted me to respond at all is not a need to set anyone straight on such
matters. Indeed, I commend Mr. Rahn for discovering a few factual, if minor,
errors in the book. Rigorous research and rigorous presentation of evidence are
indeed called for in discussions of the assassination. I personally find Mr.
Galanor's book to be among the best in this regard, and I don't think that what
very few misstatements appear in it alter the power of the book's thesis in the
slightest. I agree with Mr. Rahn that the book's brevity detracts somewhat from
the arguments it makes, but that is a necessary tradeoff that writers must make
when gauging their audience. Brevity can be a virtue, and it certainly is for
much of the book-buying audience. Not everyone relishes 1000-page tomes as much
as I do.
What prompted me to respond was dismay at the tone of Mr. Rahn's posting. Ken Rahn has much to say about fostering an atmosphere for the "sharing of information in a respectful, open manner" in JFK assassination discussions. Instead, this posting has all the markings of the typical attacks we see all the time. Many of his comments are nit-picks that would make Sylvia Meagher proud (see Rahn's point 8 about the Warren quote, for instance).
The timing of this posting also worries me. At the conference, Mr. Galanor provided a compelling rebuttal to Mr. Rahn's new interpretation of the neutron activation analysis data. It is my understanding that Galanor has continued to press Mr. Rahn to release his underlying data for review, and that this has not happened to date. I cannot help but wonder if the detailed and time-consuming work which Mr. Rahn must have put into this critique is in part motivated by the typical human emotions which too often dominate "debate" in this case. It is my opinion that most people involved in researching or analyzing this affair have great difficulty being dispassionate. It is also my personal observation that Mr. Rahn is no different in this respect. That is not surprising--the stakes are too high for all who take this matter seriously. What is at issue fundamentally are belief systems about how our country works, and what is possible in it. I had hoped that the Providence Conference might indeed be a forum for a new mutual respect on both sides of this wide gulf. The conference itself, while interesting and enjoyable, was a little bit less than that. I fear that what little spirit existed there is now evaporating. Too bad.
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