(PART 751)


The HSCA testimony of former Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin is rather interesting testimony in several respects.

I've culled some of my favorite portions of Mr. Rankin's 1978 HSCA session:

MR. SAWYER -- "Mr. Rankin, has the fact that the Warren Commission report, according to all polls, received so much poor acceptance by the American people, given you any pause to reflect on whether you went about it correctly or not?"

MR. RANKIN -- "Not really. You know, as a part of my job as General Counsel, I researched all of the assassinations and a number in regard to other countries, and went into the materials that were available about the assassination of President Lincoln. I discovered that there was a large body of opinion that didn't believe any of the findings about Lincoln's assassination, and about other people that had been assassinated. Apparently that is the lot of anybody that works in this kind of a field."


MR. SAWYER -- "Are you satisfied with the decision of the Commission to hold all executive session hearings rather than public hearings? Do you think that may have contributed to the lack of acceptance of the report?"

MR. RANKIN -- "We had one open hearing."

MR. SAWYER -- "That was because Mark Lane demanded--"

MR. RANKIN -- "That was Mark Lane, and I think you had similar experiences--"

MR. SAWYER -- "Who would naturally demand a public hearing, right?"

MR. RANKIN -- "I do not think it helped with your hearing, although I think you handled it well in regards to some of the problems developed."

MR. SAWYER -- "As some people who watched it said that Mr. Lane had done for the legal profession what the Boston Strangler did for the door-to-door salesman."



MR. PREYER -- "The FBI reached a conclusion in their report that was made 17 days after the assassination that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. Don't you think that would have had some chilling effect, would have dampened the incentive of FBI agents in following out the question of a conspiracy where his organization had already declared itself to the effect that there was no conspiracy?"

MR. RANKIN -- "I think that is true but we always assumed that. We started out knowing the FBI had already decided who the assassin was and that no one else was involved, and we knew that was the agency position. It was very evident. But we did not rely on anything like that. We sought detailed evidence and if we didn't get the evidence we asked for, we sent back time after time to get it. We treated their report in which they promptly found Oswald as the assassin and that was no conspiracy as though that was just an interesting document, but we are not there to ratify that; we were to find out if it was true and I think we were probably quite offensive, especially some of the younger members of our staff who looked forward to the opportunity of finding that the FBI was wrong, at least on as much as they could find."


MR. SAWYER -- "[Jack] Ruby, while he was incarcerated in Dallas...said, according to the transcript, substantially that he would like to tell the whole truth but he cannot tell them the whole truth while he is in Dallas, and if they would transport him to Washington, he would tell the whole truth. Was any follow-up ever done on that at all by the staff or otherwise?"

MR. RANKIN -- "No, there was not. We were all convinced that Ruby was interested in a trip to Washington rather than how much he could enlighten the Commission. It seemed quite apparent when you observed him and his approach to the whole suggestion."


MR. SAWYER -- "Is that the impression you got individually?"

MR. RANKIN -- "Yes, I thought that he was quite enamored with the idea of coming to Washington and he even wanted to see the President. It was easy to imagine what that would all develop into if you got started on it."

[Later, Rankin added this....]

MR. RANKIN -- "I felt that he [Ruby] really wanted a trip to Washington rather than to help us in our problems."

[DVP INTERJECTION -- This is a very interesting comment made by J. Lee Rankin. Rankin's explanation for why Ruby wanted to be taken to Washington is certainly worth considering, although most conspiracy theorists who have seen the above quote probably believe that Rankin was merely trying to cover his own ass (and the Warren Commission's ineptitude) when he said that Ruby "really wanted a trip to Washington rather than to help us in our problems.".]


MR. DEVINE -- "Mr. Rankin, recognizing that nearly 15 years have intervened since the event and 14 years since the filing of the Warren Commission report, learning the things that you have learned during the intervening period, the new technical exotic crime detection techniques that have developed, additional witnesses that were not available to you, the meeting of the Rockefeller committee, the Church committee, the Assassinations Committee and all, as you sit here today, do you feel that the Warren Commission, had they had the benefit of all this additional information, would have reached a conclusion different than that which you actually did?"

MR. RANKIN -- "No. I think the Commission would not have arrived at any different conclusions."


MR. FITHIAN -- "There was also conflicting testimony, though I believe not given as much credibility by you and your staff and the Commission, that indicated that eyewitness accounts heard other shots from other areas, particularly the grassy knoll area. Wouldn't your firing time limitation [of 2.3 seconds between shots when using Oswald's Carcano rifle] of necessity almost have to come to bear on that kind of testimony beyond the three cartridges that you found?"

MR. RANKIN -- "We never thought that the testimony of shots from other points was impressive in the light of the wounds."