The Warren Commission
(Editorial in The Nation, 28 December 1963, page. 445)
The tragic happenings in Dallas have succeeded in wildly activating the
latent James Bond that is in everyman. From all points on the compass, letters,
unsolicited manuscripts, queries and telephone calls have poured into this
office since November 22. The hypotheses are varied and ingenious, including the
suggestion that President Kennedy’s death was not an assassination but a
prearranged, ordered suicide! The Nation, too, has been curious abut the
obvious discrepancies, inconsistencies, gaps and unexplained aspects of the
three murders, but has resisted the temptation to enter the lists until an
“official” verdict of the facts is available. The intensity and scope of
public speculation is understandable, but it also has an unpleasant aspect. As
Arthur Hoppe, columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle has pointed out,
“Now that he is dead, we all ask, who did it? Who really did it? How important
it is to all of us who failed in our duties in some small way—and all of us
sometimes fail—to find some vast conspiracy to blame. How very important. And
how very sad.”
All the same, the public should maintain an alert, skeptical, wholly critical attitude; nor should public concern abate merely because the Warren Commission has set to work. For one thing, the role that the FBI played, according to its own account, in relation to the Dallas police and to the Secret Service, is itself a subject of legitimate public concern, and the FBI—according to its own past record—is not to be trusted to pass judgment on its own activities. The public is entitled, specifically, to an explanation of the motive which led the FBI to “leak” aspects of its report before it was even delivered to the Chief Justice, much less released to the public, By clear inference, some publications have been permitted to “see” the report, if not to study it. This is both irregular and highly objectionable.
Nor should the public give a blank check of credence to the Warren Commission. While the diligence and skill and integrity of the Chief Justice is not to be questioned—although it has been editorially questioned by the New York Daily News—the commission is not as well balanced in make-up as it should have been; it is heavily weighted in favor of the “official” or Establishment view. A majority might be inclined, for example, to seal off further inquiry with a brisk “official” report and to ignore sensitive aspects of the matter, including the role of the FBI, of the Secret Service and of the Dallas police.
Newsweek has suggested that the Warren Commission is the “jury” in this matter, but that is inaccurate. At best the Commission is the petit jury, or more accurately, the coroner’s jury; the grand jury consists of the American people. Precisely because of the worldwide scope and intensity of public speculations about the facts, nothing short of the earliest possible full disclosure—and verification wherever possible—of all the known facts, will suffice. The public is entitled to nothing less. For our part, we intend to make an independent assessment of whatever “official” report is eventually issued.
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