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Secret Service Agent Says the 'Magic Bullet' Wasn't Magic
For the first time, the New York Times questions the official theory of JFK's murder
A retired Secret Service agent tells the New York Times he found a pristine bullet in the limousine in which President John F. Kennedy was slain, calling into question the official theory of a “lone gunman.”
The account of Paul Landis, drawn from an article in Vanity Fair and a new book, draws attention once again to the bullet that the Warren Commission dubbed Commission Exhibit 399. Forensic analysts dubbed it “the magic bullet.”
As Times reporter Peter Baker summarizes Landis’s story:
The Warren Commission decided that one of the bullets fired that day struck the president from behind, exited from the front of his throat and continued on to hit Mr. Connally, somehow managing to injure his back, chest, wrist and thigh. It seemed incredible that a single bullet could do all that, so skeptics called it the magic bullet theory.
Investigators came to that conclusion partly because the bullet was found on a stretcher believed to have held Mr. Connally at Parkland Memorial Hospital, so they assumed it had exited his body during efforts to save his life. But Mr. Landis, who was never interviewed by the Warren Commission, said that is not what happened.
In fact, he said, he was the one who found the bullet — and he found it not in the hospital near Mr. Connally but in the presidential limousine lodged in the back of the seat behind where Kennedy was sitting.
If true, Landis's story shows that the Commission’s theory about CE 399 is wrong. If true, it proves that President Kennedy and Connally, the governor of Texas, were wounded in the back by two different bullets fired within less than a second, a physical impossibility for a single shooter. If true, Landis’s story confirms Connally’s unequivocal testimony — rejected by the Commission — that he and the president were struck by two different bullets. In short, if Landis’s story is true, the Warren Commission’s conclusions about a “lone gunman” are false.
The Times account treats this as a real possibility.
Mr. Landis has been reluctant to speculate on the larger implications. He always believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.
But now? “At this point, I’m beginning to doubt myself,” he said. “Now I begin to wonder.” That is as far as he is willing to go.
And that is as far as the Times is willing to go — which is new territory for the nation’s newspaper of record.
Landis is a credible witness, and his story, especially as told in the Vanity Fair article, is a new and compelling account of the gunfire that took JFK’s life on Nov. 22, 1963. Baker’s story in the Times is a significant breakthrough in media treatment of the JFK story. The country’s newspaper of record is now open to serious and respectful coverage of the long-scorned view of the majority of Americans that the official theory of JFK’s assassination is wrong.
Baker is the epitome of a mainstream Washington reporter, a fast and prolific chronicler of news as it is understood by the political class in the nation’s capital. This is not the first time he has made JFK news. Last July, Baker picked up on the reporting of JFK Facts and broke the story of Reuben Efron, “the CIA man who read Oswald’s mail.”
Earlier this year JFK Facts reported on the Heath memo, which revealed the previously unknown fact that the CIA station in Miami rejected the “lone gunman” scenario in favor of investigating certain anti-Castro exiles for orchestrating the Dallas ambush. The findings of that internal probe have yet to be made public by the CIA.
To be sure, there are factual issues with Landis’s account, which Baker notes:
Mr. Landis remained silent for 60 years, which has fueled doubts even for his former Secret Service partner, and memories are tricky even for those sincerely certain of their recollections. A couple elements of his account contradict the official statements he filed with authorities immediately after the shooting, and some of the implications of his version cannot be easily reconciled to the existing record.
Gerald Posner, stalwart defender of the official theory, doubts Landis’s story. So does historian David Kaiser, who rejects the official theory.
JFK Facts will report on what experts say about Landis’s story in the coming days.
But for now, the respectful treatment of Landis’s story — and its dire implications for the “lone gunman” theory — signal a sea change in how the Times’ editorial leadership thinks about Kennedy’s assassination.
For the first time in 60 years, the Times is open to explanations of the president’s murder that are not dependent on factually dubious (and politically propagandistic) formulations like the “magic bullet” and the “lone gunman.” For the first time, the Times is practicing independent journalism on JFK’s murder.
This is an important development, for which this Substack publication takes partial credit.
Rex Bradford and I launched JFK Facts 11 years ago with the goal of improving news coverage of the JFK story, with fact-based reporting supported by the original documentation (available at MaryFerrell.org). We think our influence has reached the highest levels of American journalism.
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