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NY Times' Umbrella Man Exposed

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Mr. WITT. No.

Mr. GENZMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Witt.

Mr. Chairman, I have no further questions.

Is the Times at all interested in the credibility of this purported umbrella-bearer? Absolutely not.

Instead, the Morris video presents the idea that sometimes, the most ridiculous scenarios are the truth. And so it presents the ridiculous, and asks us to believe it. Cutting to the chase, the man seen opening an umbrella comes forward to explain why he did it. Reason: in 1963, he was still mad at Britain's pre-war Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement of Hitler, and held JFK's father to blame as US ambassador to England in that period. Chamberlain was famed for carrying an umbrella. So -- get this -- Umbrella Man, hoping to make a statement about what happened in the late 1930s to JFK in 1963, pumped his umbrella at the time the fatal shots were fired...only for this obscure purpose.

The Times passes the responsibility for this travesty to Morris, who passes it along to Josiah Thompson, a former Navy underwater demolitions expert turned Yale philosophy professor turned private investigator, who appears on-screen to ruminate about "Umbrella Man." He is happy to accept the Chamberlain story as "delightful weirdness."

Watching this, one gets the sense that Thompson believes there was no conspiracy in JFK's death. But what the Times implies with this little piece is false. In fact, Josiah Thompson is known for documenting the exact opposite. He wrote a serious investigative book in 1967, "Six Seconds in Dallas," full of evidence and specifics, in which he concluded there was a conspiracy to kill JFK -- involving three different shooters. But the New York Times is not interested in that, only in this new, droll dismissal of another piece of the puzzle.

I called Thompson to ask him about the Morris video, and he pronounced himself delighted with it. I asked him how he knew that the man who came forward to identify himself as Umbrella Man and present the Neville Chamberlain story was actually the same man in the fuzzy photo of many years earlier.  By way of explanation, he mentioned hearing a story from a well-respected JFK researcher who in turn had heard that Umbrella Man had told his dentist years earlier that he was Umbrella Man. Pressing Thompson, I learned that the man who came forward as Umbrella Man never provided proof that he was in fact the man with the umbrella. Even the dentist story is third, fourth, or perhaps fifth hand, not verified by Thompson or his researcher friend. All of which proves nothing, and all of which suggests that maybe, just maybe, the man's improbable, "delightful" story of Neville Chamberlain is, indeed, fabricated.

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Just because Errol Morris is a master of the documentary art does not make him any kind of authority on what should be the province of careful investigators. Just because a story is absurd does not make it real, or "delightful," as the Times video would like us to consider -- and many did, with thousands emailing the Times piece to friends. This is something well understood by the game-players of the covert operations house of mirrors: the jesuitical contortions that can be made to twist any credible scenario.  

Here are some things you should know about the man who came forward to identify himself as Umbrella Man and tell this ludicrous Neville Chamberlain story:

His account of his activities that day don't track with what Umbrella Man actually did, raising questions as to whether this man who volunteered to testify to the assassination inquiry is even the real umbrella-bearer, or someone whose purpose was to end inquiries into the matter .

The man who came forward, Louie Steven Witt, was a young man at the time of Kennedy's death. How many young men in Dallas in 1963 even knew what Neville Chamberlain had done a quarter-century before?

In 1963, Witt was an insurance salesman for the Rio Grande National Life Insurance company, which anchored the eponymous Rio Grande Building in downtown Dallas. It's an interesting building. Among the other outfits housed in the building was the Office of Immigration and Naturalization -- a place Lee Harvey Oswald visited repeatedly upon his return from Russia, ostensibly to deal with matters concerning the immigration status of his Russian-born wife, Marina. Another occupant of the Rio Grande Building was the US Secret Service, so notably lax in its protection of Kennedy that day, breaking every rule of security on every level.

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A major client of Rio Grande was the US military, to which it provided insurance.

It's worth considering the roles of military-connected figures on the day of the assassination. These include Dallas Military Intelligence unit chief Jack Crichton operating secretly from an underground communications bunker; Crichton's providing a translator who twisted Marina Oswald's statement to police in a way that implicated her husband; and members of military intelligence forcing their way into the pilot car of Kennedy's motorcade, which inexplicably ground to a halt in front of the Texas School Book Depository (where Lee Harvey Oswald's employer, a high official with the local military-connected American Legion, managed to find a "job" for Oswald at a time when his company was otherwise seasonally laying off staff.) Oh, and it's worth contemplating JFK's titanic, if under-reported, struggle with top Pentagon officials over how the US should interact with Russia, Cuba, and the rest of the world. You can read more about all this in my book Family of Secrets.

Is this concatenation of facts too crazy to consider? More crazy than that Neville Chamberlain story?

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NY Times Editorial Policies? ... by Hubert Steed on Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 at 10:21:31 AM
Russ:Without advocating for the conspiracy delinea... by Cliff Arnebeck on Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 at 11:36:36 AM
the New York Times for the last decade, when they ... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Dec 1, 2011 at 4:50:30 AM
There you again, with those Popular Science assump... by Ned Lud on Thursday, Dec 1, 2011 at 7:07:36 AM
Both men were pacifists and against wars of agress... by aberamsay on Thursday, Dec 1, 2011 at 4:57:46 AM