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Warren Commission

Warren Commission

Overview

The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established on November 27, 1963, by Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

 on November 22, 1963. Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, and made public three days later. It concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald was, according to four government investigations,These were investigations by: the Federal Bureau of Investigation , the Warren Commission , the House Select Committee on Assassinations , and the Dallas Police Department. the sniper who assassinated John F...

 acted alone in the killing of Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Governor
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 John Connally
John Connally
John Bowden Connally, Jr. , was an influential American politician, serving as the 39th governor of Texas, Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy, and as Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard M. Nixon. While he was Governor in 1963, Connally was a passenger in the car in...

, and that Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby
Jacob Leon Rubenstein , who legally changed his name to Jack Leon Ruby in 1947, was convicted of the November 24, 1963 murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Ruby, who was originally from Chicago, Illinois, was then a nightclub operator in Dallas, Texas...

 acted alone in the murder of Oswald.
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The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established on November 27, 1963, by Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

 on November 22, 1963. Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, and made public three days later. It concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald was, according to four government investigations,These were investigations by: the Federal Bureau of Investigation , the Warren Commission , the House Select Committee on Assassinations , and the Dallas Police Department. the sniper who assassinated John F...

 acted alone in the killing of Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Governor
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 John Connally
John Connally
John Bowden Connally, Jr. , was an influential American politician, serving as the 39th governor of Texas, Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy, and as Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard M. Nixon. While he was Governor in 1963, Connally was a passenger in the car in...

, and that Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby
Jacob Leon Rubenstein , who legally changed his name to Jack Leon Ruby in 1947, was convicted of the November 24, 1963 murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Ruby, who was originally from Chicago, Illinois, was then a nightclub operator in Dallas, Texas...

 acted alone in the murder of Oswald. The Commission's findings have since proven controversial and been both challenged and supported by later studies.

The Commission took its unofficial name—the Warren Commission—from its chairman, Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 Earl Warren
Earl Warren
Earl Warren was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.He is known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public-school-sponsored prayer, and requiring...

. According to published transcripts of Johnson's presidential phone conversations, some major officials were opposed to forming such a commission and several commission members took part only with extreme reluctance. One of their chief reservations was that a commission would ultimately create more controversy than consensus, and those fears proved valid. The Commission's report was printed at Doubleday book publishing company located in Smithsburg, Maryland
Smithsburg, Maryland
Smithsburg is a town in Washington County, Maryland, United States. Its population was 2,146 at the 2000 census and latest 2008 estimates are at 2,908. Smithsburg is close to Fort Ritchie army base and just west of the presidential retreat Camp David....

.

Members


Committee
  • Earl Warren
    Earl Warren
    Earl Warren was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.He is known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public-school-sponsored prayer, and requiring...

    , Chief Justice of the United States
    Chief Justice of the United States
    The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

     (chairman) (1891-1974)
  • Richard Russell, Jr.
    Richard Russell, Jr.
    Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. was a Democratic Party politician from the southeastern state of Georgia. He served as state governor from 1931 to 1933 and United States senator from 1933 to 1971....

     (D
    Democratic Party (United States)
    The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

    -GA
    Georgia (U.S. state)
    Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

    ), U.S. Senator
    United States Senate
    The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

    , (1897-1971)
  • John Sherman Cooper (R
    Republican Party (United States)
    The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

    -KY
    Kentucky
    The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

    ), U.S. Senator (1901-1991)
  • Hale Boggs
    Hale Boggs
    Thomas Hale Boggs Sr. , was an American Democratic politician and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Orleans, Louisiana...

     (D-LA
    Louisiana
    Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

    ), U.S. Representative
    United States House of Representatives
    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

    , House Majority Leader (1914-1973)
  • Gerald Ford
    Gerald Ford
    Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

     (R-MI
    Michigan
    Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

    ), U.S. Representative (later 38th President of the United States
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

    ), House Minority Leader (1913-2006)
  • Allen Welsh Dulles
    Allen Welsh Dulles
    Allen Welsh Dulles was an American diplomat, lawyer, banker, and public official who became the first civilian and the longest-serving Director of Central Intelligence and a member of the Warren Commission...

    , former Director
    Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
    Director of the Central Intelligence Agency serves as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, which is part of the United States Intelligence Community. The Director reports to the Director of National Intelligence . The Director is assisted by the Deputy Director of the Central...

     of the Central Intelligence Agency
    Central Intelligence Agency
    The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

     (1893-1969)
  • John J. McCloy
    John J. McCloy
    John Jay McCloy was a lawyer and banker who served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II, president of the World Bank and U.S. High Commissioner for Germany...

    , former President of the World Bank
    World Bank
    The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

     (1895-1989)


For more than 15 years, from 1991 until his death on December 26, 2006, Gerald Ford was the last living member of the Warren Commission.
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General counsel
  • J. Lee Rankin
    J. Lee Rankin
    J. Lee Rankin was the 31st United States Solicitor General, from 1956 to 1961. In 1952, Rankin managed the Dwight Eisenhower for President campaign in Nebraska and in 1953, Eisenhower selected Rankin to serve as United States Assistant Attorney General.Known for his straightforward, quiet, and...



Assistant counsel
  • Francis William Holbrooke Adams
  • Joseph A. Ball
  • David W. Belin
    David W. Belin
    David W. Belin, of Des Moines, Iowa and New York, was an American businessman, and was also noted for his public service. He was born June 20, 1928 and died on January 17, 1999 in Rochester, Minnesota from head injuries sustained in a fall.-Notable Actions:...

  • William T. Coleman, Jr.
  • Melvin Aron Eisenberg
  • Burt W. Griffin
  • Leon D. Hubert, Jr.
  • Albert E. Jenner, Jr.
    Albert E. Jenner, Jr.
    Albert Ernest Jenner, Jr. was an American lawyer and one of the name partners at the law firm of Jenner & Block. He served as assistant counsel to the Warren Commission; as a member of the U.S...

  • Wesley J. Liebeler
  • Norman Redlich
    Norman Redlich
    Norman Redlich was an American lawyer and academic. As a lawyer he is best remembered for his pioneering work in establishing a system of pro bono defense for inmates in New York State who did not have the finances for a lawyer...

  • W. David Slawson
  • Arlen Specter
    Arlen Specter
    Arlen Specter is a former United States Senator from Pennsylvania. Specter is a Democrat, but was a Republican from 1965 until switching to the Democratic Party in 2009...

  • Samuel A. Stern
  • Howard P. Willens (liaison)


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Staff
  • Philip Barson
  • Edward A. Conroy
  • John Hart Ely
    John Hart Ely
    John Hart Ely is one of the most widely-cited legal scholars in United States history, ranking just after Richard Posner, Ronald Dworkin, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., according to a 2000 study in the University of Chicago's Journal of Legal Studies.-Biography:Born in New York City, John Hart...

  • Alfred Goldberg
  • Murray J. Laulicht
  • Arthur J. Marmor
  • Richard M. Mosk
    Richard M. Mosk
    Richard M. Mosk is an associate justice of the California Courts of Appeal, Second District. Richard M...

  • John J. O'Brien
  • Stuart R. Pollak
    Stuart R. Pollak
    Stuart R. Pollak is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, division three, in San Francisco, California.-Background:...

  • Alfredda Scobey
  • Charles N. Shaffer, Jr.
  • Lloyd L. Weinreb
    Lloyd L. Weinreb
    Lloyd L. Weinreb is the Dane Professor of Law at Harvard Law School . He was first appointed to the HLS faculty in 1965 and became a full professor in 1968.-Biography:...



Method


The Commission conducted its business primarily in closed sessions, but these were not secret sessions.
"Two misconceptions about the Warren Commission hearing need to be clarified…hearings were closed to the public unless the witness appearing before the Commission requested an open hearing. No witness except one…requested an open hearing… Second, although the hearings (except one) were conducted in private, they were not secret. In a secret hearing, the witness is instructed not to disclose his testimony to any third party, and the hearing testimony is not published for public consumption. The witnesses who appeared before the Commission were free to repeat what they said to anyone they pleased, and all of their testimony was subsequently published in the first fifteen volumes put out by the Warren Commission."

Aftermath



Secret Service


The specific findings prompted the Secret Service
United States Secret Service
The United States Secret Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency that is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The sworn members are divided among the Special Agents and the Uniformed Division. Until March 1, 2003, the Service was part of the United States...

 to make numerous modifications to their security procedures.

Commission records


In November 1964, two months after the publication of its 888-page report, the Commission published twenty-six volumes of supporting documents, including the testimony or depositions of 552 witnesses and more than 3,100 exhibits. All of the commission's records were then transferred on November 23 to the National Archives. The unpublished portion of those records was initially sealed for 75 years (to 2039) under a general National Archives policy that applied to all federal investigations by the executive branch of government, a period "intended to serve as protection for innocent persons who could otherwise be damaged because of their relationship with participants in the case.” The 75-year rule no longer exists, supplanted by the Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act (United States)
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure...

 of 1966 and the JFK Records Act of 1992
President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is a public law passed by the United States Congress, effective October 26, 1992. It directed the National Archives and Records Administration to establish a collection of records to be known as the...

. By 1992, 98 percent of the Warren Commission records had been released to the public. Six years later, at the conclusion of the Assassination Records Review Board
Assassination Records Review Board
The Assassination Records Review Board was created as a result of an act passed by the US Congress in 1992, entitled the "President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act." The Act mandated the gathering and release of all US Government records related to the Assassination of John F....

's work, all Warren Commission records, except those records that contained tax return
Tax return (United States)
Tax returns in the United States are reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service or with the state or local tax collection agency containing information used to calculate income tax or other taxes...

 information, were available to the public with redaction
Sanitization (classified information)
Sanitization is the process of removing sensitive information from a document or other medium, so that it may be distributed to a broader audience. When dealing with classified information, sanitization attempts to reduce the document's classification level, possibly yielding an unclassified...

s. The remaining Kennedy assassination related documents are scheduled to be released to the public by 2017, twenty-five years after the passage of the JFK Records Act.

In 1992, the Assassination Records Review Board was created by the JFK Records Act to collect and preserve the documents relating to the assassination. It pointed out in its final report:
Doubts about the Warren Commission's findings were not restricted to ordinary Americans. Well before 1978, President Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and four of the seven members of the Warren Commission all articulated, if sometimes off the record, some level of skepticism about the Commission's basic findings.

Criticisms



In the years following the release of its report and 26 investigatory evidence volumes in 1964, the Warren Commission has been frequently criticized for some of its methods, important omissions, and conclusions.

In the foreword to the last edition of the commission's report, A Presidential Legacy and The Warren Commission, Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

 said the CIA destroyed or kept from investigators critical secrets connected to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
He said the commission's probe put "certain classified and potentially damaging operations in danger of being exposed." The CIA's reaction, he added, "was to hide or destroy some information, which can easily be misinterpreted as collusion in JFK's assassination."

Witness testimony


There were many criticisms about the witnesses and their testimonies. One is that many testimonies were heard by less than half of the commission and that only one of 94 testimonies was heard by everyone on the commission.

Other investigations


Three other U.S. government investigations have agreed with the Warren Commission's conclusion that two shots struck JFK from the rear: the 1968 panel set by Attorney General Ramsey Clark
Ramsey Clark
William Ramsey Clark is an American lawyer, activist and former public official. He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, which included service as United States Attorney General from 1967 to 1969, under President Lyndon B. Johnson...

, the 1975 Rockefeller Commission
United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States
The U.S. President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States was set up under President Gerald Ford in 1975 to investigate the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies within the United States...

, and the 1978-79 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which reexamined the evidence with the help of the largest forensics panel. The HSCA involved Congressional hearings and ultimately concluded that Oswald assassinated Kennedy, probably as the result of a conspiracy. The HSCA concluded that Oswald fired shots number one, two, and four, and that an unknown assassin fired shot number three (but missed) from near the corner of a picket fence that was above and to President Kennedy's right front on the Dealey Plaza
Dealey Plaza
Dealey Plaza , in the historic West End district of downtown Dallas, Texas , is the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963...

 grassy knoll. However, this conclusion has also been criticized, especially for its reliance upon questionable acoustic evidence. The HSCA Final Report in 1979 did agree with the Warren Report's conclusion in 1964 that two bullets caused all of President Kennedy's and Governor Connally's injuries, and that both bullets were fired by Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

As part of its investigation, the HSCA also evaluated the performance of the Warren Commission, which included interviews and public testimony from the two surviving Commission members (Ford and McCloy) and various Commission legal counsel staff. The Committee concluded in their final report that the Commission was reasonably thorough and acted in good faith, but failed to adequately address the possibility of conspiracy.

See also

  • Assassination of John F. Kennedy
    Assassination of John F. Kennedy
    John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

  • Lone gunman theory
    Lone gunman theory
    The lone gunman theory is the nickname given to the controversial conclusion reached by the Warren Commission that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a single gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald who fired only three shots, one of which being the single bullet that wounded both Kennedy...

  • John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories
    John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories
    There has long been suspicion of a government cover-up of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. There are also numerous conspiracy theories regarding the assassination that arose soon after his death and continue to be promoted today...

  • Single bullet theory
    Single bullet theory
    The single bullet theory was introduced by the Warren Commission in its investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to explain what happened to the bullet which struck Kennedy in the back and exited through his throat...

  • Presidential Commission
    Presidential Commission (United States)
    In the United States, a Presidential Commission is a special task force ordained by the President to complete some special research or investigation...


External links