Reflections on why it took so long
It required logic rather than deep knowledge of NAA
How ironic it is that the key to understanding the NAA data was not detailed, specialized knowledge about NAA, but rather basic reasoning, i.e., grasping the idea that the tight groupings of fragments and the membership of the two groups were incompatible with chance ordering of fragments with heterogeneities as large as those found in quarters of bullets. One needs to know nothing about NAA in order to see the problem here.
Similarly, one needs to know nothing about NAA, and probably little about analytical chemistry in general, to appreciate the importance of the FBI's analysis of replicates of fragments, if not to grasp the significance of the contrast between their near-identical results and the variabilities at larger scales of sampling. That is logic pure and simple. JFK researchers who do not know NAA are not absolved from missing this answer.
These two observations strongly emphasize the role of critical-thinking skills, which unfortunately have to be learned by painful practice over many months or years. The observations also put a heavy responsibility on every one of us for not having arrived at the answer many years earlier. This painful episode points out just how far all of us still have to go in developing these skills. May we learn from it.
Why didn't people grasp the true significance of the NAA data?
This is a question with unpleasant answers all around. One does not need to be a specialist in NAA to grasp the great significance of its data to the JFK assassination—one need only plug away at it. Plenty of information was there; it just had to be arranged properly. I can only conclude that not enough people were interested, especially from among the scientific and technical disciplines that would feel most comfortable with numbers. All it took was a sense that here was important stuff that was not yet fully interpreted.
Where were the academics?
Academics are conspicuously absent from "research" into the JFK assassination. Instead, the vast majority of participants are "citizen investigators," as they have been called, ordinary people from all walks of life. Where are all those academics? Their absence has surely been one of the most important factors in lowering the overall level of study.
Although it is not easy to get a solid answer, a few factors suggest themselves. Perhaps the most general is that JFK research is tainted by association—the greater academic community sees the army of untrained, opinionated, emotional, and backbiting investigators and runs the other way, wary of being associated with them and thereby becoming tainted in the eyes of their peers. Academia views JFK research as the next thing to UFOs, spontaneous human combustion, and body snatching, and maybe rightly so. An academic must be strong indeed to swim against this tide.
Another major factor keeping academics away is that studying JFK does not bring money to an institution. Even people who produce books do it nearly always on their own. (Conspicuous exceptions are George Michael Evica and Michael Kurtz, whose books were at least published by university presses.) In these days when sponsored research is the name of the game at so many universities, JFK research is not a winner.
I expect that academics are also turned off by the bickering and petty battles among JFK researchers. It is interesting and saddening to note the near-absence of academics from the newsgroups and the "research" conferences.
Another possible reason keeping academics away from JFK studies is that they sense, rightly or wrongly, that few genuine academic questions are involved. I suspect there are quite a number, though, but often buried a layer or two beneath the surface.
Why did J. Edgar Hoover hide the OES data?
This question is fairly straightforward to answer. Hoover hid the OES data because he realized that they showed nothing and would thereby reflect badly on his organization in the eyes of the majority of the populace who didn't understand the legitimate limitations of OES. Hindsight has proved him right. The one person who tried to work with the data, George Michael Evica, totally misinterpreted them. His book, And We Are All Mortal, suffers to the extent that he based it on these data.
Why did Hoover hide the NAA data?
Hoover's actions with respect to the NAA data are harder to understand, and I don't pretend to. At one level, he was just doing the same as for the OES data, keeping secret something he wasn't sure would make his FBI look stellar. But something else is going on here, for the FBI had essentially cracked the mystery of the NAA data—in spite of what Guinn said, they knew of the two groups of fragments and must have realized what they probably meant. It is possible, however, that they felt insecure about the interpretation because they didn't have enough background bullets to be able to put the proper error bounds on the concentrations of antimony. This is another way of saying that they would not have been able to back up their interpretation to the extent necessary in dealing with the crime of the century. They can hardly be faulted for feeling insecure, but they can be faulted for hiding the very facts of the NAA tests.
But something else may still be going on at a deeper level. We must not forget that the NAA data, with their two-bullet sense, work against the FBI's official finding of three bullets—one each to Kennedy's back, Connally's back, and Kennedy's head. (This official finding has never been withdrawn, and so presumably remains FBI policy.) Hoover may have been hiding the FBI's full understanding of the NAA data because they would have conflicted with his earlier report to the Warren Commission, and Hoover could not have stood such a public embarrassment. Whatever the reason for hiding the fact of the FBI's NAA, American societ was extremely ill-served by it.
The societal cost of hiding the FBI's full understanding
Hoover's act of hiding the FBI's full understanding of the NAA data effectively delayed the resolution of the assassination by 40 years. It created unnecessary confusion, with side effects that live on and poison the whole atmosphere surrounding the assassination, perhaps forever. This created a huge societal cost, one that is nearly impossible to fully evaluate. Imagine how different the mood in America would have been over the last 40 years if we had been able to view the assassination simply as the act of one deranged loner and misfit who acted on the spur of the moment and got off three poor shots, one that missed completely, one that hit Kennedy's back instead of his head, and one that came within an inch or so of missing the head altogether. Seen in this light, the assassination was a chancy feat indeed. No wonder the assassin paused for a moment to review his "handiwork"—he, of all people, realized to the fullest how he had snatched victory from failure at the very last second. He knew his life had just changed forever, but also that it almost didn't.
How different the last 40 years would have been if we had been able to see the assassination the way Oswald saw it. We would have, if Hoover had released the FBI's NAA data. But he denied us that chance, and created 40 years of unnecessary doubt, confusion, and suspicion that eventually became self-sustaining as it tapped into people's natural doubts and suspicions. Hoover's self-centered act postponed the day of reconciliation about the assassination by nearly half a century. This was a villainous act, pure and simple.
Is this the real cover-up of the assassination?
It seems self-evident that keeping from the public evidence as powerful as the NAA is a major cover-up. A strong case can be now made that it was the biggest cover-up in the entire assassination and aftermath. J. Edgar Hoover's reputation will be held accountable for this.
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