One of the most challenging tasks in dealing with historical subjects, even more contemporary ones, is evaluating individuals who claim to be primary sources – but whose remarks and observations are not part of the record created at the time of an event. I’ve posted before on the issues of memory in regard to “retroactive” source information, more could be said on that and its pretty obvious that a very large body of information comes to exist based on source statements months, years or even decades after the fact – statements which are almost certainly contaminated to some extent by memory issues, regardless of the sincerity of the source.  You have to pause when you find experiment after experiment demonstrating that witnesses will challenge even their own written or recorded statements prepared within minutes or hours of an event when interviewed at a later date.  Their current “memories” simply override even their own earlier records.

That’s one issue, but there are a variety of others.  All of them are important to me because I frequently do turn to individuals as sources – and have learned the risks of that the hard way over a couple of decades.  Yet on a recent online forum post, I read an individual remarking that they had seen a name mentioned, did a Google search, and began to insert the information they found into the dialog, taking it quite literally.  It had taken me some three years to parse that particular source in regard to whether they were credible or not, or to what extent – in that particular case my conclusion was not at all.

Which raises the point that sources may be credible, partially credible or not at all credible – in some instances certain things they say can be verified, while others prove to be extremely questionable.  And there is the issue of “situational” sources, who provide information over a long period of time and filter it according to personal circumstances.  That is one of the things that makes Richard Case Nagell such a challenging source – he did filter his story over time, in regard to both legal issues and personal ones involving custody battles over his children. Taking any single remark from him, without understanding the chronology and context of his remarks would be a mistake. He is a perfect example of what turns out to be a credible but extremely challenging source.

Some of the other challenging sources that I’ve crossed paths with are people like Fred Crisman, Thomas Beckham and Gene Wheaton.  Each required years to evaluate – especially since the first two can demonstrably be shown to be both con men at certain points, to have used fake religious credentials and in Crisman’s case to have carried out a significant UFO hoax along with forging a document outlining has career as a CIA “asset”.  Not to mention anonymously inserting himself into the Garrison investigation with a letter identifying himself as a suspect – and  yes, the man had some serious problem while being totally sincere and personally convincing.  There is no doubt that some sources are so sincere that they convince themselves of their own alternative history.

Beckham on the other hand proved to be an entirely different story, as he did indeed have certain limited but verifiable personal experiences in New Orleans and could offer some insights into both Guy Bannister and Lee Oswald.  Yet being the kind of guy he was, that grew like Topsy, reinforced by his contact with Crisman, and became yet one more alternative reality. For those of you interested in either man, I have provided Debra Conway with my extensive research files on both of them and hopefully at some point they will be available on CD; I don’t think there is a body of information about them that comes close to that collection which had the benefit of work by a variety of others including people who had been personally scammed by Crisman.

Then you have a source like Gene Wheaton, who has the right credentials, was in the right places to hear and know what he claimed and shared it with the ARRB – yet the ARRB showed not the least interest in him and the staff member who worked with him for over a year eventually told my friend Stu Wexler she did not even remember his file, without doubt the most sensational she would have had go past her during her tenure there.    Stu and I will be talking about that at the Lancer conference this fall and showing an interview with Wheaton – that will give those in attendance a chance to personally evaluate him as a source.  And of course, as I write in SWHT, if you decide Wheaton is telling the truth, then you have a very strong insight into the people who went from Florida to Dallas to kill the President.

 

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

8 responses »

  1. Marv Kramer says:

    It’s been over 50 years since the assassination and absolutely nothing of importance has been accomplished since then. How could it be different, since writing a book has been the main objective instead of finding out the truth? It was always about RACE, but that makes publication and financial reward almost impossible to obtain.

    George Clooney attempted to tackle the problem a year a so ago in a documentary on TV, but his efforts went for naught. Forget any DEEP analysis of racism or anti-Semitism in the U.S.

    So far it’s a waste of time.

    • Having written three books on the JFK assassination and conspiracy I obviously have a different opinion on what’s been accomplished. Your remark about financial reward is also pretty questionable since I know my own motives and also know how much of a net loss I’ve taken doing books over the years. If you think the average researcher is making major money off their books you need to do some research yourself. Now Bill O’Reilly is no doubt making a profit off his books (you need to sell in the thousands or tens of thousands to do that) and possibly some of the very early authors like David Lifton might have come out on the top side given they had major publishers – but that was early days. I’d be curious as to some names you would submit as to being in it for financial reward and the facts that go along to support it…maybe that’s true, I’d sure like to know who though. As to deep analysis and discussion of racism and antisemitism, I would maintain Stu Wexler tackled that in our book The Awful Grace of God.

      • Marv Kramer says:

        As to the book “The Awful Grace of God,” I would suggest you ATTEMPTED to tackle racism and anti-Semitism. But you missed and right now they are both headed for a “touchdown.”

        I apologize for the use of the word accomplishment. A better word would have been RESULTS. I have read much of what you have written as well as Stu Wexler and learned a lot from the both of you. So I was dead wrong in using the word “accomplishment.”

        In addition, I was not criticizing your motives at all. From the little I know about you and Wexler, you’re the top of the line….. both as to ability and ethics.

        However, you both lack CONTEXT as to the total picture of both racism and anti-“Semitism in the U.S. From my reading of your works, you are both unaware of the “deep backgound” movements especially in the case of anti-Semitism. How could it be otherwise when Stu Wexler has being influenced by the like of Abraham Foxman and the ADL.

      • Marv, I certainly would make not claim to have done more than “tackle” the subject, and even then from a fairly defined and focused perspective in AGOG. Certainly Stu has written in more detail in his own work while I’ve gone on to focus more on other areas of intelligence and security related subjects in my most recent books. There is no doubt that racism remains endemic and increasingly dangerous, I really can’t comment on the anti-Antisemitism element, its not something I have studied in contemporary events. And for that matter I would agree with you on “results”, especially in the context of what we have learned having had any really broad based and significant impact on either the media or the professional academic/historical community. Its probably good I didn’t continue into graduate history work, I suspect I am not temperamentally suited for that in a truly academic venue.

        I’d also admit to not having explored the deep context you describe, especially in regard to anti-Antisemitism. I have spent time on deep context research for other subjects, but not on that – I must admit I thought I had gone into deep context to some extent on the racism issue but I would need some references from you to see what I’m missing.

        All in all I have gained a great respect for how much I don’t know, I run as fast as I can, not sure whether I’m catching up or not.

  2. Greg Kooyman says:

    Hi Larry, I was re-reading this post that you did on July 2 where you mention your plan to show a Gene Wheaton interview. It got me to thinking. Would it be a benefit to the community and the conference if we were able to talk Gary Wheaton in to attending and speaking about his father? I don’t know if I mentioned this, but Gene Wheaton was originally from Oklahoma. Gary’s FB posts provide an insight that he is proud of that Oklahoma heritage. He may be based out of somewhere in Oklahoma, I am not sure. What I do know is that he is a trucker and travels all over the country. Since Dallas could be a natural pass through point for him, he might be able to fit it in provided he is amiable about talking about his father.

    What do you think? If it is worth pursuing, I will definitely try to reach out via a FB messenger message.

    Greg

    • Greg, I think that would be a wonderful idea and I’d like to meet him. The interesting thing is that we might even be able to offer him some details about his Dad he doesn’t know. I suspect he might not know about his father’s approach to the ARRB. And since we are among those to happen to believe his Dad, he would not have any worry that we would be slandering him. I’d love to have him drop by the conference even just to chat and of course if he wants to talk about his Dad I’m happy to share all the ARRB materials – much of that is on my web site and in SWHT of course. I think his Dad got a real brush off from the ARRB and was surely a stand up guy, trying to do the right thing. I only wish we could have gotten just a bit more about those conversations he heard…

      • Anonymous says:

        Great Larry, I will get to work on this. I will keep you posted if anything develops…

      • Well being a native Oklahoman I can certainly appreciate the power of oil, it controls my state’s financing and legislature – its political clout is certainly immense even now in the oil producing states. On the other hand I would have to separate oil in terms of its importance to the issues in my post. The initial US involvement with Saudi and Pakistan had virtually nothing to do with oil, it was purely the knee jerk anti-Communist reaction of first Carter’s national security advisor and then much more dramatically the Reagan era goal to push back the Soviets globally. In Nicaragua and in SW Asia. William Casey was driven by that agenda and it drove support for the Contras in Nicaragua as much as the support for the jihadi’s in Afghanistan. Turning total control of the money and weapons over to the Pakistani ISI had nothing to do with oil and everything to do with terrible judgement and a lack of cultural understanding. Now having said that, the ongoing failure of both the US and Saudi to acknowledge the roots and nature of the global terror movement certainly has do do with the politics of oil – but also with the politics of domestic power. It is true that the Saudi government as a whole certainly did not sponsor the 9/11 attacks, but its also true that a number of its citizens including some very influential and wealthy financial donors and Wahhabi clerics did. And Saudi is not about to admit that for decades it tolerated them in hopes that they would direct their efforts outside the Kingdom. But there is no way they can admit that – just as their is no way the other governments I named can. And there is no way American politics is going to allow any official acknowledgement of the tremendous mistakes of the Reagan/Casey era. That’s not about oil, that’s about politics.

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