"JFK Revisited" Misleads on the ARRB's Quest for Dr. Burkley's Lawyer's Papers
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, misleads viewers on the context of discussions between Burkley's family and the ARRB regarding supposed papers in the possession of his lawyer.
Screen Shot from JFK Revisited
Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (1:01:28)
Whoopi Goldberg: The one physician present at both Parkland Hospital and the Bethesda morgue was George Burkley, Kennedy's personal doctor. Arlen Specter did not depose George Burkley, but Burkley did an interview with the JFK Library in 1967, and was asked this question:
Question: Do you agree with the Warren Report on the number of bullets that entered the President's body?
Burkley: I would not care to be quoted on that.
Dr. Donald Miller: The reason he didn't say anything was he was intimately involved in the cover-up.
Whoopi Goldberg: Burkley signed the autopsy descriptive sheet with the bullet in the back at the level of T3. He also signed Kennedy's death certificate, which also placed that wound in the back. That death certificate is not in the Warren Commission volumes and the descriptive sheet in the Commission volumes does not have Burkley's signature. In 1977, through his lawyer, he wrote a letter to Richard Sprague, Chief Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He said he had information indicating that "others besides Oswald must have participated" in the assassination.
Whoopi Goldberg: He was willing to talk about it at this time. Sprague, who made clear his intention to fully investigate the CIA's involvement, was forced out two weeks later. Dr. Burkley submitted a written statement to the House Select Committee but there is no official record of him being deposed as a witness.
Douglas Horne: In 1982, he told JFK researcher Henry Hurt "I know there was more than one gunman." And when Henry Hurt tried to recontact Burkley for more details, Burkley cut him off at the knees, "I don't want to talk about it anymore."
Douglas Horne: The very next year, Burkley talked to Michael Kurtz, another JFK researcher, told him that he knew there was a conspiracy to kill the President and that he recalled an exit wound in the back of President Kennedy's head. Now that's a very significant statement, that the only doctor we know of who was present at both Parkland, for treatment, and at Bethesda, during the autopsy, told Michael Kurtz in 1983 that Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head. When Kurtz tried to recontact Burkley, Burkley cut him off at the knees, "I don't want to talk about this anymore." Dr. Burkley was deceased by the time the Review Board was impaneled. So then [ARRB General Counsel] Jeremy [Gunn] decided, well, we can ask the executor of his estate, his daughter, to sign a waiver so that we could go to the law firm, that Mr. Illig used to work for, since he was deceased also, and see if there were any records in the files of Mr. Illig that would have revealed what it was he wanted to tell the HSCA, in detail. And she said she would do that.
Douglas Horne: And then Jeremy called her on the phone, she had completely changed her mind and adamantly refused to sign it and terminated the phone call.
JFK Revisited claims that "In 1977, through his lawyer, he [George Burkley] wrote a letter to Richard Sprague, Chief Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations."
His first interview did suggest one possibility as to what Mr. Illig was talking about in his communication with Richard Sprague:
Dr. Burkley said the doctors didn't section the brain and that if it had been done, it might be possible to prove whether or not there were two bullets. Dr. Burkley thinks there was one but concedes the possibility of there having been two.
There is also another reason, and my next blog post will discuss that in more detail.
His "one small redwell" in the call was a Redweld (a brand of expanding file).
Another son, George W. Burkley, also called Douglas Horne:
The waiver contained this language:
The request to the law firm was rather broad, "allowing a duly-authorized attorney from the Assassination Records Review Board, a Federal agency, to determine" what records were of interest. Of course, the ARRB was only interested in assassination-related documents, but perhaps they could have offered to let the family, or the law firm, do the search.
Was there any reason to expect that Mr. Illig had any assassination-related documents? If he did have documents, wouldn't he have told Sprague more than he did?
In fact, we know exactly why Burkley was conferring with Mr. Illig. It's right there in the Richard Sprague memo shown above:
Mr. Illig stated that he had a luncheon meeting with his client, Dr. Burkley, this date to take up some tax matters.
So, Dr. Burkley was meeting Illig to discuss his tax affairs. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Illig had any relevant documents.
This also provides a possible explanation for Ms. Denlea withdrawing her permission for the attorney-client waiver. Perhaps she didn't want an ARRB fishing expedition through Illig's files. Even though the ARRB was specifically going to search for assassination-related documents, she might have figured that private or personal matters might eventually become public. Not everything is about the JFK assassination.
JFK Revisited is also misleading on the ouster of Richard Sprague as General Counsel of the HSCA. He was not forced to resign because of "his intention to fully investigate the CIA's involvement." Sprague took his old-school prosecution toolkit and misread the changing times.
For instance, in February 1976, the House Government Operations Committee called for all government agencies to stop using polygraphs and "other similar devices." Here is an excerpt for their report in the Dallas Morning News of February 2, 1976, well before the start of the HSCA:
The nature of the research undertaken, both federally and privately funded, and the results there-from have done little to persuade the committee that polygraphs, psychological stress evaluators, or voice stress analyzers have demonstrated either their validity or reliability in differentiating between truth and deception, other than possibly in laboratory situations.
The Los Angeles Times reported on December 15, 1976, that Richard Sprague planned to use a variety of controversial techniques:
The article noted that:
Outlining his plans for the $6.5 million-a-year inquiry he has proposed, Sprague said that his staff would use extensively two types of lie detectors: the usual polygraph, which must be physically attached to the witness, and a "stress evaluator," which its developers claim can indicate truth or falseness of tape-recorded statements.
The committee also plans to purchase two tiny transmitters that can be hidden in the clothing of an investigator during the questioning of a potential witness. When combined with the stress evaluator, this device will permit the committee to subject individuals to secret lie detector tests.
Sprague said that witnesses, including present or former government officials, would be asked to submit voluntarily to a polygraph test. "The stress evaluator can be used when a person does not agree to the polygraph," he said.
This caused alarm bells in Congress:
Arizona Daily Star, January 6, 1977
As for the CIA, JFK Revisited makes the claim that Sprague fully intended to investigate their "involvement." But involvement in what?
There is a revealing passage in Gaeton Fonzi's book, The Last Investigation: (page 197)
He [Sprague] wanted complete information about the CIA's operation in Mexico City and total access to all its employees who may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings and transcripts. The Agency balked. Sprague pushed harder. Finally the Agency agreed that Sprague could have access to the information if he agreed to sign a CIA Secrecy Agreement.
Sprague refused. He contended that would be in direct conflict with the House Resolution which established the Assassinations Committee and authorized it to investigate the agencies of the United States government.
"How," he asked, "can I possible sign an agreement with an agency I'm supposed to be investigating?" He indicated he would subpoena the CIA's records.
So, even Fonzi admits that the CIA was willing to let Sprague have access to the requested documents.
Sprague resigned at the end of March 1977:
House Democrats didn't like the way he lectured them on the subject or his apparent effort to control everything connected with the probes. Particularly, they resented his demands for a big staff and a $13 million two-year budgets, along with plans to use sophisticated equipment such as "stress analyzers," secret microphones and lie detectors in dealing with witnesses.
Sprague was in trouble well before the Illig contact. It's actually quite the non-sequitur to include the removal of Sprague in the Burkley segment.
Coming Up: The real reason why Dr. George Burkley suspected a conspiracy in the JFK assassination.
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