Reactions from readers on the web, 2002
From: Ed Redlich, 3 May 2002
My father is Norman Redlich, who as I'm
sure you know, was a counsel to the Warren Commission.
I was delighted to see the amount of attention and critical care you have given to analyzing the Kennedy assassination. My father's work on the Commission remains one of the things of which he is most proud in his professional life.
I was raised in a liberal New York city family, taught from an early age to be wary of the excesses of government. My dad defended people accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee, spoke and wrote against McCarthyism, and was always skeptical of the Rosenberg conviction (and certainly their execution) and the Hiss conviction. So it was quite an awakening for me to be on the "other side" of things as regards the Kennedy assassination, to have so many "liberal" friends just assume that somehow the government had a hand in covering up the truth about Kennedy's death.
I grew up with my dad being questioned at almost every public appearance by someone who would have "just one question" about the assassination, a question that would invariably start with, "I accept everything you people concluded, but the one thing that makes me wonder about a conspiracy...." And then they would invariably raise some absurd tangential question about leaves on the trees or Jean Hill's testimony...and my dad would always patiently go through the recitation of the actual facts of the case—and then usually send the questioner a photocopy of the relevant section of the Report—which of course had usually not been read.
I remember my dad telling me that the purpose of an investigation is to try to establish the truth as best as possible—and that if fifty people say one thing and one person says another, you might conclude that that one person is correct and everyone else is inaccurate or lying, but the reasonable assumption is maybe just that that one person just got it wrong. He always used the example of the testimony about how Oswald carried the package with the curtain rods. The person who drove him to work testified that Oswald held the package in a certain way, and the Commission had a hard time holding the bag and rifle in exactly that way in their re-creation. Well, critics might say that that fact alone proves Oswald never brought his rifle in that day, when there is so much other evidence supporting the fact that he did. So the Commission concluded that that witness may simply have been incorrect in his observation.
I admired the diligence with which you collect and marshal your arguments. And I'm amazed that you don't weary of the task. Only Vincent Bugliosi, who I have spoken to on occasion, brings your passion to discounting the conspiracy insanity that seems to never end. (I particularly admire how he always first asks his crowd who has an opinion on the assassination, and they almost all raise their hands, and then he asks how many have read the Warren Report and almost no one ever has.) I spent many years debating the assassination, and still do from time to time, though it always amazes me how people's eyes glaze over when you start really to explain about the time sequence of the shots and the scientific basis for the development of the single bullet theory. What I find most powerful are the little details that people can understand to rule out a conspiracy, like the fact that Ruby left his dogs in his car, or the fact that the money order he got from the post office was time stamped only minutes before he killed Oswald—so that, as my dad is fond of saying—if someone were ahead of him on line to get that money order, he would have missed Oswald's transfer completely.
In the end, history will bear out the truth I believe. There's more to say, but I really wanted just to tell you "good work," and to applaud rational thought.
My reply, same day
Wonderful letters like yours make it all
worthwhile for me. Far more common are hard-edged attacks from people who have
no clue how to evaluate evidence but nevertheless have convinced themselves of
I would like to communicate with you further. I am tempted to be bold and ask whether (a) you would agree to my posting your letter on my JFK web site, and (b) whether you have any additional stories from your father, or even materials, that I could use on the site. Feel free to decline either or both if they elevate the discussion to a level that you had not intended.
As for my unflagging energy, it comes from somewhere deep within that I have not fully identified. It has to do with trying to right a travesty and demonstrate the power of science and reason.
Best regards, Ken Rahn
Ed's reply, 4 May 2002
I have quite a few stories
from that period, though I was only six at the time. My only really strong
contemporaneous memory is of finding photographs of the president's bloody shirt
and other photos of evidence hidden in my dad's shirt drawer. I think he was
very conscious of keeping some of the gory details from his young children. My
dad is quite fond of retelling certain stories about the investigation, most of
a humorous nature.
As I say, he remains very proud of the deductive work they all did and has reminded me over and over how they checked and rechecked the evidence presented to them by the FBI. One story in particular concerns their efforts to confirm the story of the Dallas cop who went into the book depository and saw Oswald minutes later at the soda machine I think it was. The FBI had interviewed the cop and he testified as to his actions, and there was the obvious question raised of whether it was possible for Oswald to fire the shots and get to that location in time for the encounter with the cop, and did the cop have the time to get there as well. Well, they restaged the whole thing once with the Oswald stand-in running down the stairs and there was clearly time for the two of them to meet there, but then someone on the commission noticed that (and I'm recalling this story as best I can from memory) the officer had testified that Oswald was not out of breath when they encountered each other. So they actually restaged and retimed the whole thing to see if Oswald could have gotten there walking at a pace that would not have made him out of breath, and sure enough, there was time for Oswald to get there, even walking down the stairs. It always struck me as an interesting detail given the criticism of the Commission's supposed cursory investigative work. Obviously, and my dad would be the first to admit this, the Commission was not aware of the subsequent revelations about Cuba, and the mob and all that stuff, but he has always maintained that although it might have caused them to look deeper into those areas, particularly motive, it would not have changed their basic conclusions about the assassination—which, my dad is quick to point out, were not that there was definitely no conspiracy, but only that they had no credible evidence to support a conspiracy.
Obviously, my father, as did most all of the other young attorneys, went on to other careers and, with the possible exception of Belin, did not dedicate their lives to defending their work—as the conspiracists have clearly dedicated their lives, I suppose lucratively in some cases, to tearing it down. That makes for a rather uneven playing field, which is why the dedication of people like you and Posner is so important for history. I have forwarded copies of pages from your web site to him and I know it will mean a great deal to him to know that there is a powerful voice for rationality and sanity in this whole debate.
The whole Oliver Stone thing was obviously very distressing to him, particularly the suggestion that Warren was too senile to even read the report. He remained close friends with Warren for years afterward, and I remember meeting the justice as a boy in 1968 and having a very extensive and quite mentally competent discussion with him about the New York Mets chances of winning the pennant. My dad has also adamantly denied to me over and over that there was any pressure put on the young attorneys to reach any kind of forgone conclusion. As Slawson, or perhaps Liebeler, mentioned to me when I met them for lunch here, they were all young men in their early thirties starting out on their careers. To be the one person who found evidence of a conspiracy would have been a huge benefit and calling card for them. They were all dying to turn up stuff, which is why they so diligently went about their work, rechecking FBI conclusions and the like. It particularly always strikes my dad as sad how certain statements about the assassination, wrong as they may be, have become accepted as fact simply because they've been repeated incorrectly so many times. For instance, the statement that the commission positively concluded which shot missed. The report actually suggests scenarios wherein any of the three shots could have missed, though obviously, as you are I'm sure aware, a missed second shot would have required Oswald to fire at the absolute limits of accuracy in terms of the time for the shots.
So obviously there are many more stories, and if my dad were just a bit younger, I'm sure he would enjoy telling you them himself. As it is, you're stuck with his son, and if there's any way I can be of help, I'd love to.
All my best,