Dial "P" For Perjury

by Richard Bartholomew

"...leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
-- John F. Kennedy, undelivered speech, Dallas , November 22, 1963

Life 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 "Perjury."

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 Warren 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 Warren Commission or work for the FBI in connection with the analysis of these evidence samples?

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:


GLASGOW, Scotland, Aug. 27 (UPI)-- The use of radioactivity in criminology may determine whether Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, a San Diego, Calif. [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 tests."

He said the evidence had been given to the Warren 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 Warren 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 Warren 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 Warren Commission).

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 reuse.

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 them.

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 waste.'"

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., 1978-1988, Willmette , IL : Macmillan. Wasserman and McLean, eds., Who's Who in Consulting, 2nd ed., Detroit , MI : 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., 563)

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 day.

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 Guinn. Mark Lane 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.

Used by permission. All rights reserved. JFK/DPQ PO Box 174 Hillsdale , NJ 07642 USA