Warren Commission

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Warren Commission

The assassination of President john f. kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, was a shocking event that immediately raised questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of the president. Those questions increased when the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered while in the custody of Dallas police on November 25 by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.

President lyndon b. johnson moved quickly to reassure the nation that a thorough inquiry would take place by creating a commission of distinguished public servants to investigate the evidence. On November 29, 1963, Johnson appointed Earl Warren, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to head the commission, which became known as the Warren Commission. Its 1964 report, which sought to put to rest many issues, proved controversial, provoking charges of a whitewash. The facts surrounding the Kennedy assassination remain the subject of debate.

Chief Justice Warren, fearing that his service disrupted the traditional Separation of Powers, reluctantly agreed to serve as director of the commission. The other members of the commission were Senators Richard B. Russell of Georgia and John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky; two members of the House of Representatives, Hale Boggs of Louisiana and gerald r. ford of Michigan; Allen W. Dulles, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency; John J. McCloy, former head of the World Bank; and James Lee Rankin, former U.S. Solicitor General, who was appointed general counsel for the commission.

The Warren Commission began its investigations on December 3, 1963. The commission used accounts and statements provided by the Dallas police force, the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the military, and government and congressional commissions. Over the course of ten months, the commission took testimony from 552 witnesses.

The commission published its conclusions, popularly known as the Warren Report, in September 1964. According to the commission, Oswald acted alone in the assassination. The commission characterized Oswald as a resentful, belligerent man who hated authority. The commission endorsed the "single bullet theory," which concluded that only one bullet, rather than two, struck President Kennedy and Texas governor John Connally, who was sitting directly in front of the president in the open convertible. This was important because it appeared unlikely that Oswald could have fired his rifle twice in succession quickly enough to strike the two men. It found no connection between Oswald's Communist affiliation, his time living in the Soviet Union, and the murder, nor between Oswald and his murderer, Jack Ruby. The commission also found no evidence that Ruby was part of a conspiracy. It criticized the security measures taken to protect Kennedy and recommended that more effective measures be taken in the future.

Although the conclusions of the commission were well received at first, public skepticism soon grew about the findings. In 1966 two influential books were published that challenged the methods and conclusions of the commission. Both Inquest by Edward Jay Epstein and Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane declared that the commission had not investigated deeply enough to produce conclusive results. In that same year, Jim Garrison, a New Orleans district attorney, stunned the public with his revelations of a conspiracy and his accusations against prominent businessman Clay Shaw. Shaw was tried on conspiracy charges but was acquitted in 1969.

Since the release of the Warren Commission report, thousands of articles and books have been published promoting various theories surrounding the assassination. A 1979 special committee of the House of Representatives reexamined the evidence and concluded that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

Allegations that federal agencies withheld assassination evidence led Congress to enact the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C.A. § 2107). The act created the Assassination Records Review Board, an independent federal agency that oversees the identification and release of records related to the assassination of President Kennedy. The act granted the review board the mandate and the authority to identify, secure, and make available, through the National Archives and Records Administration, records related to Kennedy's assassination. Creation of the review board has allowed the release of thousands of previously secret government documents and files.

Further readings

Galanor, Stewart. 1998. Cover-Up. New York: Kestrel Books.

O'Neill, William L. 1971. Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s. New York: Quadrangle Books.

Simon, Jonathan. 1998. "Ghosts of the Disciplinary Machine: Lee Harvey Oswald, Life-History, and the Truth of Crime." Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 10 (winter).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
But the reports said "the credibility of the Warren Report would be damaged all the more if it were learned these allegations were known and never adequately investigated by American authorities".
I started by reading a biography or two of Oswald and by looking at the Warren Report. The idea began to gain momentum, and then I made the leap.
Nevertheless, as a so-called JFK assassination buff, I will adamantly defend those who patiently, over the years, have assembled an impressive array of facts that totally discredit the Warren Report.
Bradley examines the Kennedy myth, the Warren report and subsequent rise of the "culture of conspiracy," the myth of "King Richard" Nixon, and the "transvaluation of American values" through the cynicism promoted by Nixon.
"We will name names, tell what we know, kind of like the Warren Report," Gaines says.
Ours is a civilized passion." When his curiosity about flaws in the Warren Report sends him to Dallas (for Texas Monthly) to give conspiracy theorists a hearing, he's amusingly self-aware.
After 18 months of deliberations by the Freshwater Fisheries Review panel, the Warren Report on the future of angling is due to be published next week and it is my belief that it will recommend an open-all-year policy.
Not one of these critics of the Warren Report is a professional historian, yet their efforts probably constitute the largest body of work by amateur historians on any single subject.
Assassination Science repeats Crenshaw's criticisms of the Warren report and his belief that Kennedy was shot from in front.
The point of reference for pundits on this matter was the Warren Report, which ruled that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy.
This peer approval by a major university press illustrates the boundless and utter disbelief in the Warren Report that exists even in the highest reaches of the academy, and reveals the gross inattention given to the subject by serious historians.
The persistent disbelief attached to the Warren Report, the ceaseless re-examinations, have to be grounded in unfinished business, some yearning that goes will beyond narrow questions such as whether all pertinent government documents have been released.