By Max Holland
During forty-two years of controversy over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the legal profession has played an instrumental role. All seven members of the Warren Commission, which investigated the 1963 assassination, were lawyers. There were twenty-seven people on the commission’s staff (including Norman Redlich, a Nation contributor since 1951), twenty-two of whom were aspiring or practicing attorneys. The combined efforts of these lawyers produced an imperfect report in September 1964, although its fundamental findings have never been seriously impeached.
But what the legal profession giveth, less scrupulous members of the bar taketh away. Since 1964 four other lawyers have been chiefly responsible for putting the Warren Report into undeserved disrepute. During a conference in November sponsored primarily by the Washington-based Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC)--headed, not coincidentally, by a lawyer--three of these four lawyers made rare public appearances or were otherwise represented in spirit.
The paterfamilias of disingenuousness, Mark Lane, was noticeably absent. An obscure New York attorney at the time of the assassination, Lane single-handedly set the standard for dishonest criticism. In 1964 he spread innuendo about an ostensibly sinister delay in the Warren Commission’s investigation as he went barnstorming around the country giving what was then known as “The Speech.” Two years later Lane published a book titled Rush to Judgment, having conveniently forgotten his earlier accusation. Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation during those years, steadfastly refused, to his everlasting credit, to propagate Lane’s basic allegation that the government was indifferent to the truth. Little did McWilliams (or anyone else) know then that the KGB was finding Lane’s work so useful that it was secretly underwriting his “research” and travel in the amount of $12,500 (in 2005 dollars).