is getting tough for the loud minority who deny the conspiracy that killed
President Kennedy. Those of us who know the evidence in this case often
wonder if they really believe what they are saying or if they are, at
best, playing some sort of devil's advocate game. We may soon know. If
they are devil's advocates, they must admit checkmate or stalemate.
Conspiracy deniers have always started their argument with
"Since the rifle in question propelled two bullets into the limousine
within the few seconds the car was on Elm Street; and since one of those
bullets passed through both President Kennedy and Gov. Connally...blah
blah blah," or words to that effect. They have been able to do that
because one of the weakest arguments of authors critical of the Warren
Commission, since 1978, has been their attempt to discredit the testimony
of Dr. Vincent P. Guinn, who did the neutron activation analysis (NAA)
tests of the ballistic evidence for the House Select Committee on
Assassinations (HSCA). Those tests have been hailed as hard proof of the
above-cited "facts." But the proof seems to be going poof. Dr.
Vincent P. Guinn's middle name is Perry. It may soon be
Major authors of the critical literature have failed to
note that conspiracy deniers have always spotted Guinn a credibility
stipend. They have failed to note that conspiracy deniers must ignore
Guinn's caveat that NAA is exclusive rather than inclusive (1 HSCA 493).
Conspiracy deniers must forget that his credibility is paramount to his
"opinion" and that the fragments are "most likely"
from Western Cartridge Company Mannlicher Carcano bullets (ibid., 504).
the deniers have had to imagine that two missing (ibid., 497; 7
HSCA 366, asterisked footnote 117) and three untestable specimens (1 HSCA
496) have no bearing on "the really interesting part" for Guinn
that "there is no evidence for three bullets, four bullets, or
anything more than two, but there is clear evidence that there are
two." (ibid., 505). And they have had to ignore the spurious
veracity of Guinn's other "opinion" that it is Dr. Cyril H.
Wecht's opinions, and not his own, that "don't agree with the
facts" (ibid., 506).
Conspiracy deniers have been able to get away with all of
that for one simple reason: one of the worst oversights committed by
Commission critics appears to be our failure to see that Dr. Vincent Perry
Guinn committed perjury. His HSCA testimony (1 HSCA 557) reads:
Mr. FITHIAN. Dr. Guinn, this is not meant to be an
embarrassing question, but I think I must ask it. Mr. Chairman, a recent
article in the New York Times magazine stated that you had worked for the
Warren Commission and therefore, your conclu-sions for this committee
would be impli-citly biased. Did you ever work for the
Commission or work for the FBI in connection with the analysis of these
Dr. GUINN: Neither one. I think Mr. Wolf called my
attention to the existence of this article, which I haven't seen, and I
don't know where they got their misinformation, but I never did anything
for the Warren Commission, and although I know people in the FBI, I have
never done any work for them."
Yet the New York Times (Aug.28, 1964, p. 32) reported:
TESTS USED IN OSWALD CASE
GLASGOW, Scotland, Aug. 27 (UPI)-- The use of
radioactivity in criminology may determine whether Lee Harvey Oswald
killed President Kennedy, a San Diego,
[sic] chemist said today. Dr. Vincent P. Guinn, head of the activation
analysis program of the General Atomic division of General Dynamics
Corporation, has been working on the problem with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. In the case of murder of any crime involving a gun,"
Dr. Guinn said, "there is a paraffin test where a wax impression is
taken of the hand and cheeks. There is a need for a better procedure and
about three years ago we began working on activation analysis. We bought a
similar rifle from the same shop as Oswald and conducted two parallel
He said the evidence had been given to the
Commission and would be included in the report soon to be published on the
death of the President.
Guinn swore to tell the whole truth. He mentioned none of
this even when given the perfect chance. If the 1964 United Press
International report is even half right, Guinn's statement is outright
perjury. It is compounded by the fact that the
Commission conducted additional NAA tests which they kept secret until a
memo from J. Edgar Hoover surfaced in 1973 revealing their existence. It
stretches our already mylar-thin credulity to the breaking point to
believe that Guinn knew nothing about those tests.
He was "unaware" of too much when he testified.
He developed a spurious case of amnesia about his own involvement with the
Commission. Some scientist! He swore to tell the whole truth. But when he
talked about the FBI's 1964 NAA tests for the WC in detail, he denied the
fact that he did some of them himself. Guinn was aware, however, that NAA
is not destructive. He said, "the same samples I analyzed, if
somebody didn't agree with the numbers, they could come back and do them
all over again on the same specimens." (ibid., 557) But Guinn
later said, "I would not recommend any further analytical studies at
the present time." (ibid., 565) No surprise.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with this aspect of the
case, here are the facts: Six of the seven items used in the 1977 NAA
tests of nuclear chemist Guinn underwent emission spectrography (ES) tests
in 1964. At least two of the items had also undergone NAA testing in 1964
(a fact curiously unreported by the
The ES test particles were consumed. The 1964 NAA samples
were not con-sumed and can be retested. But none of the same NAA particles
were retested and are now missing--allegedly, needlessly disposed of as
nuclear waste. Item Q3 (CE 569 copper right front seat base frag-ment),
which Guinn did not test, was never fully analyzed.
In all, the Q1 and Q9 NAA 1964 test samples (from the
stretcher bullet and Connally wrist fragments), and items Q14 (three CE
840 lead left jump seat rug frag-ments), Q15 (CE 841 lead windshield
smear) and Q609 (the lead Tague curb smear) are missing in whole or in
part. One of the Q14 fragments was discovered missing from the Archives in
1970. The windshield and curb smears were alleg-edly consumed beyond
That means less than 1 milligram remains (1 HSCA 554).
Scientist Guinn, unscien-tifically, did not question the authenticity of
these items of evidence, although authentication was a simple matter of
comparing the recorded and known weights.
Researcher Anthony Marsh reportedly found a document in the
Archives which shows that those irradiated samples of 1964 were disposed
of as radioactive waste, something Guinn claimed he was unaware of when he
testified. Guinn took his own tiny samples from the fragments and tested
Spotting Guinn an even more generous credibility stipend,
conspiracy deniers will argue that Guinn did not know the FBI had disposed
of tiny test particles from the fragments, deeming them to be radioactive
waste. They will say, "Of course the weight of the fragments he
tested didn't match the weight of the original samples minus what was
consumed in spectrographic testing. What was missing was the 'radioactive
We can only hope that they will share with us WHY
Guinn did not know. In 1964, when the FBI did these first ever forensic
studies using nuclear energy, Guinn had been doing NAA tests for eight
years--a long way toward realizing his dual expertise in nuclear and
forensic science. (Marquis, Who's Who in the West, 21st ed.,
: Macmillan. Wasserman and McLean, eds., Who's Who in Consulting,
: Gale Research Company, 1973.) He did NAA tests for the WC himself.
Perhaps they will grace us with another of their innocent explanations.
As for the tiny portions of fragments given the scary
label, "nuclear waste," the FBI "...would have rightly
considered them to be perfectly harmless," according to Guinn. (1
HSCA 563) It is odd that after Guinn discovered "quite
accidentally" that the 1964 NAA tests had been done, he and Dr. John
Nichols were determined to obtain the data through the Freedom of
Information Act, but did not try to locate the original test samples--even
after Guinn became engaged by the HSCA to replicate the tests (ibid.,
557). He knew that the fragments he received from the Archives "did
not include any of the specific little pieces that the FBI had
analyzed." Yet despite being "...sure nobody threw them
out..." he displayed a strange lack of interest in finding them. (ibid.,
Given Guinn's apparent willingness to deceive the HSCA, and
his blind trust in the fragments he was given, new tests should be done on
the original NAA samples from CE 399 and CE 842. The paper trail can be
pursued further. Radioactive waste is not put at the curb on trash pickup
Finally, we must also come to terms with the fact that all
of this seems to have fallen through the cracks of the major assassination
literature. I discovered it first while combing the JFK literature on
mentioned him inRush to Judgment (1st ed. 1966, pp. 152-153). Lane
cited the New York World Telegram and Sun for Aug. 28, 1964. That
amazing report contains more detailed quotes from Guinn than the New
York Times article. It was then a simple matter of cross-referencing
the data in DeLloyd J. Guth and David R. Wrone's excellent book, The
Assassination of John F. Kennedy: A Comprehensive Historical and Legal
Bibliography, 1963-1979. Interestingly, that incriminating article is
not mentioned after Guinn's name in their index.
Nevertheless, anyone who continues to cite Guinn's opinion
about the likelihood that the NAA tests support the Single Bullet and Lee
Harvey Oswald's guilt is no devil's advocate. That position can now only
be defined as psychological denial or poor propaganda.
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