The Internet has buzzed with news that “the infamous backyard photos” of Lee Harvey Oswald have been found to be “authentic” through digital analysis. But what kind of research was conducted, why weren’t the right questions addressed, and why does it matter?
I helped conduct the research behind the article rebutting the Dartmouth professor’s findings (see page 2, below) written for Op Ed News by Dr. James Fetzer and Jim Marrs, where it made headlines Nov. 18-20. Readers who have been told that Dr. Hany Farid could determine that a photograph, around which great controversy swirls, is ‘authentic’ and therefore cannot be used to help prove Lee Harvey Oswald’s innocence, based on his analysis of a copy of a copy of a copy, defies logic.
“You can never really prove an image is real,” Farid commented, “but the evidence that people have pointed to that the photo is fake is incorrect.”
That’s a mouthful. What evidence is he talking about? It soon becomes clear that farid is talking about the copies thmselves having been altered, and shadows-and-head problems. However, Farid doesn’t analyze the true problem: the shadows from the body fall at a different angle from the way the shadows play on the face. Two different light sources– or two present suns on our solar system– in Spring, 1963, seems to be the problem. Among many,many others not tackled by Farid.
Farid worked with a copy of a copy which may have been, in fact, a third-generation replication. All that Farid determined was that his copy hadn’t been altered. And his use of just a head, rather than a full-body analysis for shadows, is fatally flawed. Dr. James Fetzer has proposed a new genre, called ‘assassination science” to deal with problems associated with politically sensitive assassinations. It is well known that conspiracies have existed behind most assassinations, worldwide: calling names to denigrate who observe the possibility might have existed in the United States regarding the Kennedy assassination serves only to expose those who are either in the service of those involved in a genuine cover-up effort, or have not seriously examined the evidence, (not mentioning those whose IQ’s must be markedly less than their weight, if not members of the two groups above).
Noting that Dr. Farid is a reasonably intelligent man, we must conclude that he must be surprisingly naive as to the weight of evidence regarding the fakery that patently exists behind the “infamous backyard photos.” We’re not talking about whether the copy of a copy he copied had been tampered with. We’re talking about what’s inside those photos, besides the selected shadows he analyzed (and which shadows did he choose, as they went in various directions?) — and a dummy of Oswald’s head, with which Dr. Farid seemed content to limit himself.
What about the rest of the photo, and its problems? Did Dr. Farid fail to notice that “Oswald’s” longest fingers in one of the photos are all cut to the same length on his right hand? That the newspapers he’s holding are too large — or Oswald has somehow shrunken almost half a foot in height? That Oswald’s shoes show a reflection of the sun that has been measured — and it’s amovement in the sun inconsistent with the story that each photo was taken a few moments apart? What about the fact that Oswald’s head stays exactly the same, and exactly the same size, in all the photos, even though in one photo, the figure is ‘further away’ and too small for the head? And there’s much more, which you can read for yourself in the article below.
Who is Dr. James Fetzer? Distinguished McKnight Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, who teaches on its Duluth campus, published more than 25 books in the philosophy of science and on the theoretical foundations of computer science, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science.Those of us trained in the sciences will be able to appreciate the arguments made below by Dr. Fetzer:
THE DARTMOUTH JFK-PHOTO FIASCO
For OpEdNews: Jim Fetzer – Writer
Co-authored by Jim Fetzer and Jim Marrs
Madison, WI (OpEdNews) November 20, 2009 — Professor Hany Farid, a member of the computer science faculty at Dartmouth, in a recent article injected himself into a long-running dispute concerning the authenticity of photographs related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. These photos reportedly of the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald are collectively known as “the backyard photographs.”
Farid’s analysis immediately raised the ire of many assassination researchers, who for years have claimed the photos are clever fakes. In an article published in The Huffington Post (November 5, 2009), he has claimed that it is “extremely unlikely” that backyard photographs of Oswald are fake, based upon his digital analysis of the shadows.
Apparently referring to the more famous of the backyard photos — the one published on the cover of Life on February 21, 1964 nearly eight months before the Warren Commission handpicked by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin — Farid says, “You can never really prove an image is real, but the evidence that people have pointed to that the photo is fake is incorrect. As an academic and a scientist, I don’t like to say it’s absolutely authentic … but it’s extremely unlikely to have been a fake.”
Farid, who has previously conducted research on how poorly the human visual system can be at correctly judging how shadows are cast, admitted, “[W]e are really bad at judging shadows. I’m bad at it and this is what I do for a living.”
Despite this caveat, Farid jumped feet first into the controversy of the backyard photos, causing further tumult in the issue. While his announcement of no fakery, propelled by an unquestioning mass media, caused a sensation with some segments of the public, serious students of the photos expressed dismay and concern that Farid had further muddied the issue without seriously delving into the abundant literature on the issue, which remains quite important as the Life cover-photo was successfully used to convince the public of Oswald’s guilt.
Most researchers into the backyard photos, which includes an official with the Canadian Defense Department and a retired British detective expert, consider the evidence of fakery to be simply overwhelming. But Farid appears to be unaware that other experts have studied them before him.
To appreciate the magnitude of the issue, consider the words of Robert Blakey, now a professor of law at Notre Dame but who served as Chief Counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) during its reinvestigation of the deaths of JFK and of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1977-78. Speaking to the committee about these very photographs, Blakey stated,
“If [the backyard photographs] are invalid, how they were produced poses far-reaching questions in the area of conspiracy, for they evince a degree of technical sophistication that would almost necessarily raise the possibility that [someone] conspired not only to kill the President, but to make Oswald a patsy.”
It might be recalled that Oswald himself used that same word — “patsy” — meaning a person set up to take the blame for a crime. In light of the major importance of the backyard photograph issue, Farid immediately drew critics, who claimed his research was superficial and not as definitive as he implied.
No Literature Search
If Farid had only conducted a literature search, he would have known that the shadows were but one of multiple indications of fakery and that, even if he were right about the shadows, he would be wrong about the photos.
Unfortunately, neither the news reporters nor the professor seems to have known enough to appreciate that his conclusion is contradicted by multiple lines of proof, including digital analyses, which are easily accessible — even by Google!
Such proofs include that the chin in the photos is not Oswald’s chin; that there is an insert line between the chin and the lower lip; that the finger tips of one hand are missing; and that the figure in the image is too short to be Oswald.
Farid’s involvement therefore raises serious questions about the integrity of his research and the abuse of his standing as a Dartmouth professor to make public pronouncements impressionable to a wide general audience.
According to the Manchester, NH, Union Leader (November 6-7, 2009), Farid created a 3-dimensional model of Oswald’s head using a computer program called “Facegen” to determine if he could replicate the shadow beneath his nose by manipulating a source of light that simulated the sun. He said he had a difficult time until he realized that he had modeled the neck “too thin”.
Farid told the Union Leader that, given the technology available 46 years ago, “there is no way someone would have been able to get the internal and external elements of the photo just right in order to fabricate not only the one photo, but two others in the series.” But his own conclusions make it difficult to believe that he was even aware of, much less that he had studied, even two of them.
The professor could have learned much more had he only conducted a search of the literature. Even YouTube includes this documentary, FAKE: The Forged Photograph that Framed Lee Harvey Oswald. One of the most interesting has been posted by Judyth Vary Baker, whom we believe to be who she claims — a cancer researcher who became acquainted with Oswald in New Orleans.
(Here. Dr. Fetzer refers to my own study oin the subject: Is Dartmouth Professor’s Analysis of Oswald Backyard Photo Flawless?
In her study, she notes that digitalizing a backyard photo creates a problem of trustworthiness, where the strongest conclusion he is justified in drawing is that the pixels in the copy of a copy of a copy he analyzed were not tampered with. He simply reconstructed portions of a backyard photo — we do not know which one he chose — but only seems to have reconstructed the head and neck, not a full figure corresponding to the image.
Nor does he appear to have used the sun as his light source, which means that his “conclusion” is based upon a flawed methodology. Since digital photography did not exist in 1963, it is also relatively effortless to state — with a high degree of confidence — that no digital tampering of the original photos took place.
Misleading JFK Studies
The manipulation of the scene and pre-positioning of the elements to achieve a desired effect is reminiscent of a recent Discovery Channel program, “Inside the Target Car”, in which a rifle anchored to scaffolding was fired into a carefully-designed wooden box representing Kennedy’s limousine striking dummies with gelatin heads. The resultant splatter of matter was then studied in an attempt to prove the Warren Commission’s theory of one bullet causing seven wounds to both Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally.
The program assured its audience that all the elements were exactly the same as in Dealey Plaza in 1963 — except that a modern telescopic sight was used for greater accuracy. Of course, Oswald did not have the advantage of a modern telescopic sight and no mention was made of the fact that, even according to the official version of the assassination, Oswald was firing at a target moving laterally and downhill away from him with tree branches obscuring the line of sight.
And this is far from the only time that “documentaries” and other studies that claim to have vindicated The Warren Report (1964) have appeared, many of which attempt to support the “magic bullet” theory, even though it has not only been proven to be false but is not even anatomically possible. If you have any doubt, Google “Reasoning about Assassinations”. And there are many more.
There appear to have been at least four photos — plus a negative and a missing color transparency — in the entire set. We suspect Farid thought there was only one. Oswald’s face is tilted in different directions in different photos, yet the v-shaped shadow under the nose never varies, which is an obvious indication of fakery. Since he studied the nose shadow, he should have discovered this.
The most charitable interpretation of his work is that he naively assumed that the shadow beneath the figure’s nose in the image that was published in Life was the basis for rejecting the photographs as fakes — and nothing else.
Had Farid simply entered the words, “backyard photographs, Oswald”, on Google, he would have found a study entitled, “EXAMPLES OF DIGITAL EVIDENCE ANALYSIS AND PRESENTATION // BACKYARD PHOTOS EVIDENCE OR FAKERY // PRESENTED BY RALPH THOMAS”. It should have captured his attention, since Farid was planning to do a digital analysis himself.
Thomas illustrates and explains not only that there is an apparent inconsistency in the shadow of the nose in relation to the shadow of the body but also that the body shadows in different photos indicates they were taken at different times. And, under the heading, “Close Ups Of The Two Faces”, he makes key points about two of the backyard photographs:
For many years researchers have said these faces were faked. (1) A fine line runs through the chin. (2) The shadows appear to be the same under the nose. (3) The second head has merely been tilted to fit into the rest of the photo. (4) Although taken just seconds or minutes apart, the tilt of the head on the second photo also tilts the nose shadow.
Under the heading, “Overlay Of The Two Faces”, he also explains that, when the second face is turned into a transparency and titled to the same angle of the first one and the photos are overlaid on top of each other, (5) they match up perfectly, as indeed he shows in an additional third photo. But this would be impossible if the photos were authentic.
These studies contradict Farid — even about the shadows that he claims to have studied. They raise serious questions about the integrity of Farid’s research and suggest he considered only a single aspect of a single photograph. And this is far from the only contrary evidence that a Google search would have produced.
Ignoring Expert Testimony
The day following the assassination two photographs and the negative to one of these were found by Dallas police in the garage of the Irving home where Oswald’s wife was staying. These two were designated as Warren Commission Exhibits (CE) 133-A and B.
In 1976 the Senate Intelligence Committee discovered yet another backyard photo in the hands of the widow of a Dallas policeman. Mrs. Roscoe White said her husband once told her the picture would be very valuable some day. In this heretofore unknown version of the backyard photo, Oswald is depicted holding the rifle in his left hand and newspapers in his right.
This is the same pose used by Dallas police in reenacting the photo for the Warren Commission — clear evidence that authorities were aware of the suppressed picture long before it became known to the public. This photo has been identified as CE 133-C by researchers.
In the same study, Thomas himself provides a summary of far more detailed testimony from Jack White, a longtime analyst of JFK photos and films, who presented his findings of fakery to the HSCA but which the HSCA chose to disregard. Here are his observations:
1) STANDING OFF CENTER: White concluded that Oswald is standing off center and outside the weight bearing alignment of his feet. A person could not stand in such a position.
2) PROPORTIONS: When the body proportions are brought into alignment from the knees to the head by adjusting the size of the photographs, one head is much larger than the other.
3) OVERALL BODY SHADOWS: Although the photos were supposed to have been taken just seconds apart, the overall body shadows in the photographs are all different. In 133-A the photograph has a 10 o’clock shadow, 133-B a 12 o’clock shadow and 133-C a 10 o’clock shadow again.
4) ARM AND ELBOWS: White said that the elbow is too high in onephotograph and the elbow doesn’t show up on the one photograph of the arm were Oswald is holding the rifle. Attempts to duplicate this pose have been unsuccessful.
5) HANDS AND FINGERS: In the photographs, the left hand and finger looks normal. Yet the right hand is missing fingernails and the hand appears too stubby to be normal.
6) WATCH: The photographs reveal that Oswald is wearing a watch but all witnesses have stated that Oswald did not wear and didn’t own a watch. No watch was found among the possessions of Oswald and he was not wearing one when he was arrested.
7) RIFLE: When the photographs are blown up to the actual height of Oswald that was 5’9″, the rifle in the photograph is too long. When the rifle is adjusted in the photograph to it’s proper length, Oswald’s height is six inches too short.
8) SCOPE: White noted that in the photograph the rear end of the rifle scope is missing and pants wrinkles appear where the end of the scope is supposed to be, raising the prospect that the photo was retouched before being found by the Dallas police.
9) FACE: The face shows Oswald with a broad flat chin but Oswald’s Dallas Police mug shots depicted him with a pointed and cleft chin. There is a line that breaks up the grain of the photograph that runs across the chin that many say is where a cut took place to paste Oswald’s face onto the photograph. This strongly supports Oswald’s complaint to police that someone had pasted his face onto another’s body.
10) PHOTOGRAPHIC OVERLAY: When Mr. White took 133-A and 133-B, adjusted and overlaid them, nothing in the background or figure matched up as expected in two separate photos made moments apart with a handheld camera, as stated in the official testimony. However, the face of Oswald was a complete match on both photographs. This could only be explained if someone made a composite photo by pasting the same Oswald face on both pictures.
11) FACE SHADOWS: Both photos show the same V-shaped shadow below the nose. However, on one of the photos Oswald’s head is tilted but the shadow does not adjust for this tilt.
12) NECK SHADOWS: On one of the photos there is light on the right side of the neck but the same photo shows the rifle casting a shadow in the opposite angle.
13) COLLAR SIZE: The figure’s collar size can be determined from the photograph using a mathematical formula, which came out to size 16. Oswald wore a size 14-1/2 collar and all his clothes found among his personal belongings were in the 14.5 to 15-inch range.
14) BACKGROUNDS: White determined that one photograph had the top cropped off and the other photograph had the bottom cropped off making it appear as if they were two separate pictures. However, except for small differences, the backgrounds matched on both photographs, meaning the camera never changed position which contradicts the official story of Oswald’s wife reluctantly walking into the backyard to take the photo.
15) SMALL DIFFERENCES: For many months White was puzzled by the small differences he noted in the backgrounds as they were not off by much. After looking at the photographs some more he determined that on the background of one, the camera appeared to be slightly tilted. He then took another copy of the photo by tilting it on a board and everything came perfectly into alignment.
An elementary “literature search” would not only have revealed to Farid that much more than the shadows he claims to have studied themselves afford multiple indications of fakery, as White notes in points (3), (11) and (12)! If he had been determined to conduct a serious and objective study, it’s difficult to imagine how he could have missed them.
Questions of Authenticity
These photos are authentic only if they are authentic in every respect. Even if he had been successful in his study of the nose shadows, disproving one out of more than a dozen proofs of photo fakery cannot show that these photos are “unlikely to have been faked”, much less that they are authentic. There turn out to have been five versions of these photographs — plus a negative of one and a separate color transparency — as we explain below.
The more we have thought about this, the more obvious it becomes that Farid was unaware of any problem besides the nose shadow or of any photos than the one he studied. Either Farid does not understand the requirements to prove their authenticity — which is absurd, since this is one of his areas of specialization — or he did not conduct a literature search and did not know the history of research on these photos. The only alternative would appear to be that he has deliberately perpetrated a fraud.
Incredible as it may seem, the photo shown here — a “ghost” image, in the words of researcher Robert Groden — was discovered in the files of the Dallas Police files more than 20 years after the fact. In his classic study, The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald (1995), Groden provides an excellent introduction to the problems with the backyard photos on pages 90-95. Indeed, 404 evidence photos that have now been released from an official archive not only include ten photographs of the backyard without figure — which would have been indispensable to fake them, which using multiple lines of proof we know was done in this case — and two “ghost” images, which suggest that they were either produced or planted by members of the Dallas Police Department.
Farid has in fact published numerous articles regarding the use of digital analysis of photographs, which suggests that he possesses the academic ability to have analyzed them properly. Even on our charitable interpretation — that he was simply unaware of other problems and had not done a search of the literature to dispel his ignorance — then at the very least we would expect that his analysis of the nose shadows would be competent.
His conclusion supports our inference. If Farid studied more than one of these photographs, as he claims, then he should have noticed that the nose shadow remains constant across different photos, an obvious indication of fakery. In fact, the figure’s entire face remains constant in these different photographs. Either he did not know there was more than one or he is deliberately deceiving us.
Clearly, Farid has violated a basic canon of scientific research, which is that all the available evidence that makes a difference to a conclusion must be taken into account. It is impossible to demonstrate that a photo is not fake by selecting one issue, excluding consideration of the rest of the evidence, and showing that it would have been possible under special conditions.
Farid focused on the nose shadow, but ignored inconsistencies between the nose shadow and the shadows the figure casts, the similarity in the nose shadow from one photograph to another, and problems with the shadows on the neck.
Farid was competent to investigate the shadows, but he did not perform that task in a competent fashion. The question becomes, why was he doing this at all?
Jim Marr’s Response
The author of Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy (1989), Jim Marrs has long been persuaded that the backyard photos are indeed composites, just as Oswald asserted. When separate photographs made at different times with a hand-held camera are turned into transparencies and placed on top of each other, nothing should match. The problem is Oswald’s face (above the chin) is a near-perfect match when they are superimposed, as shown here.
The only difference that Marrs has detected is slight distortion of the mouth in one of the photos, which could have been done with retouching. In “The Many Faces of Lee Harvey Oswald” (YouTube), Jack White has compared the thick neck and block chin of the figure with the narrow neck and pointed chin of Oswald. He also noticed a bump on the backyard figure’s wrist (CE-133A) not on Oswald. A rookie with the Dallas Police Deparatment, Roscoe White, had a thick neck and a block chin, like the image in the photographs, and a similar bump on his wrist.
The first, depicting a man holding a rifle up over his head with both hands, was shown by Marina to Oswald’s mother. Marguerite, the night of the assassination and then again at the Executive Inn, where Marguerite burned it and flushed it down a toilet (WC Vol. I, pp. 146-152). So that photo is no longer available.
The second is the version of CE 133-A with “Hunter of Fascists” handwritten on the back in Russian, which was found long after the assassination in the belongings left behind by George DeMohrenshildt, who appears to have been Oswald’s CIA handler and had filed several reports with the agency. Jeanne DeMohrenschildt, George’s widow, told Marrs during an interview that she had never seen the photo before and believed it was planted in their belongings while they were traveling in Haiti.
Another copy and a third version (CE-133-A and B) were both found in the garage of Ruth and Michael Paine on the Saturday following the assassination, but Marrs has observed there is a major discrepancy in the record. Detectives Guy Rose and R. S. Stovall of the Dallas Police Department told the Warren Commission that they arrived at the Paine home after noon (“about 1 p.m.” quoting Stovall in Vol. VII of the Warren Commission Supporting Volumes, p. 193) on Saturday, November 23, 1963, but only brought the backyard photos discovered in the Paine’s garage back to DPD headquarters around two hours later (Rose, WC Vol. VII, p. 231).
Yet, in his statement to the Warren Commission, Capt. Will Fritz, who was in charge of the JFK homicide, related how Oswald was brought back to his office for further interrogation at 12:30 p.m. that same day, “… in an effort to find where he was living when the picture was made of him holding a rifle which looked to be the same rifle we recovered. This picture showed [by its own internal features] to be taken near a stairway with many identifying things in the backyard…. He was placed back in jail at 1:10 p.m.” (WC Report, Appendix XI, p. 607.)
But how could Fritz have seen a backyard photo before Stovall and Rose found two of them in the garage and had brought them back to the police headquarters?
This account lends great support to the stories of Pat and Robert Hester, a husband and wife team called from home on November 22, 1963, the day of the assassination, to help process assassination-related photos for the FBI and the Dallas police at National Photo in Dallas.
Both of the Hesters told Marrs that they had seen an FBI agent with a color transparency of one of the backyard photos and that one of those Robert processed had no figure in the picture. Hester’s claim was corroborated by his wife, Patricia, who also helped process film on the day of the assassination.
Marrs believes that the FBI had the photos as early as Friday evening and either passed them to the Dallas police (who lied about finding them) or planted the photos in the Paine garage (where a thorough search of the Paine home Friday had not produced them) in order to be found by the detectives prior to the police search during which they claimed to have found the photographs.
He suspects that the fabrication of the photos can be traced back to J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, who was intent on having proof that Oswald would have been convicted of the assassination had he lived to stand trial. And, indeed, there are multiple indications that Hoover took steps necessary to block a real investigation, which made him at least guilty as an accessory after the fact.
Most of what Marrs wrote about the backyard photos in Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy (1989), one of the main sources for Oliver Stone’s “JFK”, remains valid today. The book is a classic in this field and one that anyone with a serious interest in the case should have read. If Farid had only read it, he would have known that multiple experts had studied the photos long before and concluded that they were fakes as well as a great deal more.
The Warren Commission heard from Oswald’s accommodating wife, Marina, that she had taken these snapshots with a hand-held Imperial Reflex camera at the insistence of her husband. The Commission, based on Marina’s testimony and the order form for Oswald’s rifle, pinpointed the date as March 31, 1963, a date which later investigation with the US Weather Service showed had been overcast and cloudy, making it impossible to have made them that day, since they evince bright sunlight and dark shadows. She said she took one shot then handed the camera back to Oswald, who advanced the film and had her take another picture
When shown one of the backyard photographs by Dallas police, Capt. Will Fritz has said, Oswald made the following remarks:
“He said the picture was not his, that the face was his face, but that this picture had been made by someone superimposing his face, the other part of the picture was not him at all and that he had never seen the picture before. . . . He told me that he understood photography real well, and that in time, he would be able to show that it was not his picture, and that it had been made by someone else.”
Photo experts told the HSCA that the most famous backyard picture — CE 133-A, which was used on the cover of Life — was obviously made from the original negative while in the hands of Dallas authorities. And yet the negative itself was never accounted for by the Dallas police. As the Committee astutely observed, “There is no official record explaining why the Dallas Police Department failed to give the Warren Commission the other original negative.”
Marrs also discusses questions regarding the Imperial Reflex camera that was said to have been used to make these photographs. Oswald’s brother Robert claimed to have obtained the camera from the Paine home on December 8, 1963. He said he did not mention it to authorities because he didn’t realize anyone would be interested. Robert was only told the camera belonged to his brother by Ruth Paine; and the FBI did not receive the camera until February 24, 1964. About that time, Marina was shown two cameras but failed to identify either as belonging to her husband.
When the government received the camera, it was inoperable. FBI photographic expert Lyndal L. Shaneyfelt told the Warren Commission, “In order to be able to make a photograph with the camera, I had to make slight repairs to the shutter lever, which had been bent. I straightened it and cleaned the lens in order to remove the dirt which had accumulated.”
Then, in June 1964, Marina identified the camera as the one she used to take the photographs. Marina, who originally claimed to have only taken one picture, had revised this statement in her testimony to the Commission in February 1964. She said, “I had even forgotten that I had taken two photographs. I thought there was only one. I thought there were two identical pictures, but they turned out to be two different poses.”
She never mentioned any other photos. But this incident was not the only time Marina’s testimony reflected inconsistencies and rehearsal.
Experts told the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) that the most famous backyard picture — the one used on the cover of Life magazine — was obviously made from the original negative [and the fifth of the total set of five] while in the hands of Dallas authorities. Yet the negative itself was never accounted for by the Dallas police. The Committee noted: “There is no official record explaining why the Dallas Police Department failed to give the Warren Commission the other original negative.
As Marrs notes, objective viewing of the three available backyard photographs reveals internal problems aplenty. Although all three pictures were reportedly taken with a hand-held camera, the background of all three is identical when brought to the same size.
That is, while they are cropped differently, in the three photos, the elements of the background — shadows, leaves, branches, stairs, etc. — are exactly identical. This sameness of background could be produced with a stationary camera on a heavy tripod, but it is almost impossible with a hand-held camera.
In addition to the v-shaped shadow under Oswald’s nose, the photos all show a discernible line marking a break in the print’s emulsion across Oswald’s face just above a flat, broad chin. In Dallas police photos, it is clear that Oswald had a sharply pointed, cleft chin.
It was pointed out in Marrs’ 1989 book that when all three photos are brought to the same size and placed on top of each other as transparencies, nothing matches except the face of Lee Harvey Oswald — strong evidence that he was telling the truth when he said his face had been superimposed on another body.
Oswald’s assessment that the photos are superimposed fakes has been confirmed by two foreign authorities. In 1977, Major John Pickard, commander of the photographic department at the Canadian Defense Department, made these statements after studying the backyard pictures:
“The pictures have the earmarks of being faked. The shadows fall in conflicting directions. The shadow of Oswald’s nose falls in one direction and that of his body in another. The photos were shot from a slightly different angle, a different distance, with the gun in a different hand. So, if one photo is laid on top of another, nothing could match exactly. Yet, impossibly, while one body is bigger, in the other the heads match perfectly, bearing out Oswald’s charge that his head was pasted on an incriminating photograph.”
Author and British Broadcasting Corporation investigative reporter Anthony Summers had the photos studied by retired Detective Superintendent Malcolm Thompson, a past president of the Institute of Incorporated Photographers in England. Thompson said he detected retouching in the photos around the area of Oswald’s head and on the butt of the rifle. He also noted inconsistencies in the location of shadows and the different chin on Oswald.
Thompson stated: “One can only conclude that Oswald’s head has been stuck on to a chin which is not Oswald’s chin. . . . My opinion is that those photographs are faked. . . . I consider the pictures to be the result of a montage.” However, like Farid, neither Pickard nor Thompson had access to the original photos.
Astonishingly, the Photographic Evidence Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which did study the originals, concluded in 1978 that it could find “no evidence of fakery” in the backyard photos.
This conclusion rested primarily on studies that showed markings on the edges of the negative of one of the original photographs were identical to markings on other photographs made by the Imperial Reflex camera. This ballistics-type evidence convinced the panel that the photos must be genuine.
However, Texas graphics expert White pointed out that if a knowledgeable person wanted to fake the backyard pictures, it would have been a simple matter to produce a high-quality montage photograph using one backyard scene, a figure with rifle and papers and a head shot of Oswald, which then could be photocopied using the Imperial Reflex camera. This procedure would produce a backyard photo that could be proven to have come from the camera traced to Oswald.
Another method to achieve the same results, according to White, would be to make an exposure through the Imperial Reflex camera that would include the markings on the edge but nothing else. Then, when the composite photo is combined with this, the markings become part of the negative.
Asked to study the sameness of the different photos’ backgrounds, the House Committee’s experts said they measured the distances between certain objects in the pictures — such as wooden fence posts — and determined differences in distance, indicating that the photos were indeed separate shots.
White, on the other hand, claimed that the differences were simply the result of “keystoning” or tilting the easel on which the photograph was exposed in an enlarger. He said he, too, had been concerned with what appeared to be differences in the photos but discovered that, by simply tilting the photographic print in an enlarger’s easel, the backgrounds of the supposedly separate pictures overlapped and matched perfectly.
Furthermore, in recent years White discovered other problems with the backyard photos. In one picture, the tips of Oswald’s fingers appear to be missing as does one end of the rifle’s telescopic scope. White believes this resulted from sloppy airbrushing. In another, the figure can be seen to be wearing a large ring on his right hand, yet the ring is missing in the other photos. That point alone ought to have been enough to prove that these photos are fakes.
JFK Evidence Fakery
A search of the literature on a subject is usually the first stage in defining the scope of a research project, since it would be pointless to undertake studies that have been previously conducted, unless there happen to be good reasons to suppose they had not been conducted properly. That has occurred in relation to the autopsy X-rays, which David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., demonstrated to have been altered in studies published in Assassination Science (1998).
A Ph.D. in physics who is board-certified in radiation oncology, the treatment of cancer by using X-ray therapy, Mantik used a simple technique from physics called “optical densitometry” to evaluate the X-rays in the National Archives and found evidence that none of them are originals, that there are indications of a second shot to the head in the lateral-cranial X-ray, and that a 6.5 mm diameter, metallic sliver had been added to the anterior-posterior X-ray.
Mantik’s discovery of X-ray alteration has been substantiated by Jerrol F. Custer, the Bethesda Naval Hospital radiation technician who actually took the JFK X-rays. In May 1992, Custer told the news media that the negatives in the National Archives presented by the government as assassination evidence were “fake X-rays, which has been reinforced by other research by serious students of the crime.
Blakey’s words concerning conspiracy surely apply with even greater force to the alternation of X-rays that were under the control of the Secret Service, medical officers of the US Navy, and the president’s personal physician. Adding a 6.5 mm metallic slice was an obvious attempt to implicate an obscure WWII Italian Mannlicher-Carcano as “the assassination weapon”.
But the conspirators committed a blunder by this choice of weapon. As other authors — Harold Weisberg, Whitewash (1965), Peter Model and Robert Groden, JFK: The Case for Conspiracy (1976) and Robert Groden and Harrison Livingstone, High Treason (1989), among others — have observed, the Mannlicher-Carcano is not a high velocity weapon.
Since The Warren Report (1964), The Final Report of the HSCA (1979), and articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1992) all affirm that JFK was killed by the impact of high-velocity bullets, Oswald cannot have fired them.
It seems preposterous that, with instance after instance of conclusive proof that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have assassinated JFK, the debate continues. As Martin Schotz, History Will Not Absolve Us (1996), has observed, the objective of disinformation is not to convince us of the official account but to create enough uncertainty that everything is believable and nothing is knowable.
As Marrs has noted relative to the backyard photos in spite of the sameness of backgrounds and especially of Oswald’s face, conflicting shadows and distances, and the loss of portions of the photos, this vital piece of evidence remains “controversial” even though their inconsistencies can be viewed by any layman and their lack of authenticity has been the studied opinion of multiple experts.
“Of course, this is the cover-up in the Kennedy assassination,” said Marrs. “There has been no real cover-up from the standpoint of lack of evidence. Instead, it has been a cover-up of obfuscation, with one expert countering another expert in order to create controversy and confusing the issue — until the public grows tired and turns away.”
And now Hany Farid continues a “controversy” long thought resolved, not by government officials or a formal investigation, but by private experts who have contributed their time and effort in the only sincere search for truth about the death of JFK.
The Dartmouth Dilemma
Anyone who wants to know the latest research on the administration of JFK and the assassination that brought it to an abrupt end should read David Talbot, Brothers (2005) or James Douglass,JFK and the Unspeakable (2008). Or they can access John F. Kennedy: History, Memory, Legacy (2009), including “Revisiting Dealey Plaza: What Happened to JFK?”, which features a backyard photograph.
James H. Fetzer, who presented this material during the conference held at the University of North Dakota on November 22-23, 2008, was introduced by John R. Tunheim, now a federal judge in Minneapolis, who served as the Chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), a five-member civilian panel with the authority to declassify documents and records held by CIA, FBI, Secret Service, and other agencies.
Created by legislation that was motivated by the resurgence of public interest in the case after the release of “JFK”, the ARRB succeeded in declassifying some 60,000 documents and records, which was a remarkable achievement and where their work is discussed in his edited book, Murder in Dealey Plaza (2000), which begins with 16 “smoking guns,” each refuting the official account.
Darmouth, alas, confronts a dilemma. Hany Farid is not a teaching assistant but a full professor of computer science. He has immersed himself in a controversy that he could have avoided had he conducted due diligence in his research. A literature search would have revealed the full dimensions of the problem and have afforded ample indication that the photos are fakes.
Farid appears to have proceeded on the false assumption that the nose shadows were the source of concern about their authenticity. Yet, even in relation to the nose shadows, his work has been incompetent, as we have demonstrated here — unless controversy was his goal. Even if he were right about the shadows, he would still be wrong about the photos.
If Dartmouth wants to perform a service on behalf of the nation, then it should conduct an objective and comprehensive review of Hany Farid’s research and publish the results. Unless this bastion of Ivy League academia desires to bear the stain of incompetence in a matter of this magnitude, this appears to be the least that it can do.
Jim Fetzer has chaired or co-chaired four national conferences, edited three books and produced a 4 1/2 hour documentary on the death of JFK. He co-edits the on-line journal assassinationrearch.com.
Jim Marrs, one of our nation’s foremost investigative journalists, has authored many books, but is best known for “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy”, which was a basis for Oliver Stone’s film, “JFK”.
The photos associated with this article are compelling. Here are a few of them: