Critique of Joe Biles's article on NAA
Draft, 29 April 2002

    Joe G. Biles is a young man from Mineral Wells, Texas, who has become quite active in JFK/Lancer during recent years. In 2000 he published the loose-leaf The Arrogance of Ignorance: How Really Dense People Have Perpetuated the Really Effective Cover-Up of the Murder of JFK. Essays on the HSCA and the Shaw Trial. (Printed by Form Analysis, Portland, Oregon.) The first of these essays, entitled Robert Blakey, Vincent Guinn and the HSCA's Single-Bullet Theory, attracted my attention because its reference to Robert Blakey and Vincent Guinn meant that it would be dealing with the neutron activation analyses (NAAs) that Dr. Guinn did for the HSCA. This aspect of the JFK assassination has been of great interest to me because (a) the NAA is among the prime physical evidence of the assassination, and (b) virtually every JFK writer who deals with it, particularly from the conspiracy perspective, slaughters it. I wanted to see whether Mr. Biles would do better. I was particularly interested in the timing of his essays because he had updated them in 2001, after I had posted my NAA monograph on the web. Would he deal with this new and comprehensive material? I was also interested in what sort of standard Biles would set for himself. After all, he routinely prints that other people are arrogant, ignorant, and stupid. With that as a backdrop, he really needed to show that he wasn't.
    The answers were immediate and obvious. The NAA part of the essay itself was strictly amateurish. It restricted itself to comments published by other conspiracists, none of whom had a clue. This inbreeding made Biles's essay redundant and useless, just another uninformed voice touting the conspiracists' party line on the NAA. The last section, 2001 Postscript, acknowledged the monograph but gave no evidence of his having read any of it, and deferred to another essay written by another conspiracist, Art Snyder of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, claiming that certain parts of the monograph were invalid. In short, Biles was publishing material that he knew nothing about. His words against others came back to bite him.

The Essay
    Biles's big beef with the NAA seems to be that the HSCA's Robert Blakey relied on it so much to support the single-bullet theory (SBT), an idea that Biles, in true conspiracist style, takes great exception to. He begins by citing the place where the HSCA's report stated that "...the single bullet theory was substantiated by the findings of a neutron activation analysis performed for the committee." In attempted rebuttal, Biles then calls the NAA "bad science" and accuses Blakey and Guinn of lying about Guinn's lack of relationship with the Warren Commission (a peripheral issue at best). To support this claim, Biles cites a misinterpretation by fellow conspiracist James DiEugenio (in "The Sins of Robert Blakey, Part II"). 
    Biles then proceeds into the NAA, but in an extremely superficial and misleading way. He trots out the old canard about compositional heterogeneities found by Guinn for WCC/MC bullets, conveniently failing to note that they hold only for the quarter-bullet scale that is irrelevant to producing actual fragments when actual jacketed bullets break. He cites all sorts of numbers for antimony in WCC/MC bullets without putting them into any perspective. He then cites history teacher Wallace Milam's completely flawed arguments concerning copper and other elements as though they represented some sort of critical breakthrough when in fact they are uninformed nonsense (Blakey's 'Linchpin': Dr. Guinn, Neutron Activation Analysis, And The Single-Bullet Theory").
    I react to conspiracists' citing other conspiracists like this with a mixture of anger and sorrow. I get angry that they have the intellectual narrowness to believe that their friends, who are not scientists, can somehow magically know more than Ph.D. experts. I become sad when I think of the entire field of JFK "research" being filled with this kind of attitude and when I see young people like Joe Biles picking it up and thereby dooming themselves to a life of blinders and failed "research."
    Biles then goes on to cite an eminently obscure reference by one Edgar Tatro, again as quoted by DiEugenio, claiming that Dr. Guinn had tested falsified evidence and didn't know it. Edgar Tatro vs. Prof. Vincent P. Guinn? Give me a break! Mixing these two in a sentence is the essence of those three words that Biles accused others of being.
    Biles then returns in his final paragraph to Wallace Milam, via a paper Milam gave at COPA's 1994 conference in Washington, D.C. Milam had cited some comments that Guinn had allegedly informally made in reference to the possibility of his fragments being faked. Biles/DiEugenio/Milam (all somehow mixed up in presenting this confused information) managed somehow to (a) come to believe Guinn had tested the fragments in 1964 (which he hadn't—it was the FBI pure and simple) and (b) that some of the fragments used in Guinn's tests weighed more than in the FBI's 1964 tests (they all weighed less, and for perfectly good reasons). After trying to condemn Guinn in this way, Biles omits the key piece of evidence that demolishes his argument—that since Guinn's results agreed with the FBI's, Guinn's fragments obviously weren't faked. And anyhow, why would anyone fake a second analysis in order to get it to agree with a first?
    Biles then concludes with the sweeping sentence "In the final analysis, the NAA tests were not even necessary, but were rather a shallow attempt at introducing false evidence disguised by PhDs and big words." The only things really sweeping here are the shallowness and wrongheadedness of this sentence. What a pity when our promising youth are guided into such low standards of scholarship and narrow views of the world!

The Postscript of 2001
    Perhaps the best way to introduce the quality of the postscript is to reproduce its paragraph on NAA:

    "I've also discussed the HSCA's Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) work on the bullet fragments performed by Dr. Vincent Guinn. In early 2001, Dr. Kenneth Rahn wrote a long monograph defending Guinn's work (available at A senior physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC), Art Snyder, later prepared a comprehensive rebuttal to Rahn's NAA monograph. The Snyder analysis can be found both at Rahn's website and John McAdams' Finally, in response to his reported dissatisfaction with Rahn's work, leading NAA expert Albert Frasca is presently working on redoing the original NAA tests."

    One hardly knows where to begin to list all the errors here. For starters, the monograph discussed and evaluated both sets of NAA analyses, the FBI's from 1964 and Guinn's from 1977. Had Biles read it, he would have seen that both efforts were critiqued and defended, as appropriate. He would also have seen that they agreed with one another. He would further have seen that the monograph went beyond both of them and offered a resolution of the biggest paradox of the NAA results—how WCC/MC bullets can be so heterogeneous on the quarter-bullet scale and yet so homogeneous on the scale of actual fragments from actual shots. To fail to even acknowledge the treatment of this topic is to trivialize a large work and to tell the readers a seriously deficient story.
    Next, Dr. Snyder's attempted rebuttal was by his own admission highly selective. I put it on my web site to show that it failed to do its job.
    Finally, it is not at all clear what, if anything, Dr. Frasca is actually doing. He is clearly not repeating either the FBI or Guinn's tests because the National Archives is not about to give him the original fragments. The best he can hope for is to redo the homogeneity tests, but there is no evidence that they were done incorrectly. Homogenous or heterogeneous, new results for WCC/MC bullets are no longer needed to understand the NAA results. But Joe Biles doesn't tell you any of this because he doesn't have a clue about NAA or its results—he is just following in a long line of uninformed conspiratorial writers who have kept the public confused about this important topic for two decades. This kind of nonsense must stop if JFK "research" is ever going to gain credibility.

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