Vince Salandria: The JFK Conspiracy Theorist

Fifty years ago Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission told America that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of JFL. Vince Salandria has spent a lifetime trying to debunk that conclusion. Shortly before his death, did Specter hint that Salandria just might be right?

WHODUNIT?  JFK Conspiracy Theorist Vince Salandria photographed on January 29, 2014

Vince Salandria photographed on January 29, 2014.
Photo by Gene Smirnov

THREE YEARS AGO, Vince Salandria got a phone call from Arlen Specter, a man he didn’t know. Salandria had been in the Senator’s company only once before, but that was almost a half-century earlier, at a public event. When he called, Specter wasn’t running for anything—he had recently been voted out of office. All he had was a simple request of Salandria, who was 83 years old, a retired Philadelphia school-system lawyer: Would you have lunch with me? They eventually met at the Oyster House, on Sansom Street in Philadelphia. The lunch would turn out to be one of strangest meetings of Salandria’s life.

Vince is a man of high energy; he’s still doing pro bono lawyering in labor relations for the city’s schools. He’s small—all of 137 pounds—with a large balding head that narrows toward his jaw. He has an impish smile, and it would be easy to call him cute. But he isn’t, by nature, impish or cute—Vince is intense. And that was especially true when, as a young man, he attended an event held in Arlen Specter’s honor.

In October 1964, the Philadelphia Bar Association invited Specter, then a young prosecutor in the D.A.’s office, to speak about his work as an investigator for the Warren Commission, which had been formed to come up with a definitive answer to who assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Specter was assigned to figure out the basic logistics of the shooting: how many shots, how many gunmen, where did the bullets come from? The commission’s report had just come out, declaring Lee Harvey Oswald the lone killer, and the bar association had Specter address about 150 people one evening in a City Hall courtroom. Afterward, he asked if there were any questions.

Vince Salandria—who in 1964 was a history teacher at Bartram High School in Southwest Philly—stood up that night in City Hall and said he had some questions. Though really, his questions were more like statements. He said that Specter’s analysis—specifically, that a bullet had gone through the President’s neck and into Texas Governor John Connally in front of him, where it penetrated his back, smashed his right wrist, wounded his thigh, and then ended up on a gurney in a Dallas hospital in pristine condition—was a fabrication. An impossibility. An absurdity. A concoction that amounted to fraud.

Vince stood up and said that to Arlen Specter, back in 1964, before anyone else had. How could Specter come to a conclusion that was so clearly and patently wrong?

Specter was taken aback, though he remained calm. Things did get a bit testy when Vince said the commission owed it to the public to reenact “the performance of Oswald” with a rifle on moving targets; Arlen Specter wondered whether Vince would have them kill a man in order to perform a ballistics test. Vince ignored the joke; he didn’t find murder funny. Dummies, he said to Arlen Specter. Dummies could be used.

Some lawyers came up to Vince Salandria when it was over and told him he should write up his critique, that it might be important. If that bullet didn’t do what Specter said it did—travel through the President and then take a circuitous route in Connally—there had to be a second gunman, and the assassination was then a conspiracy. Which would make the Warren Commission’s lone-gunman conclusion utterly wrong.

Vince went home that night and wrote his analysis, and the first detailed critique of Specter’s Magic Bullet Theory appeared in Philadelphia’s Legal Intelligencer two weeks later.

That was just the beginning. Vince quickly became part of a small, loose collective of Warren Commission debunkers. He wrote more articles and shared his thinking with fellow researchers; Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney portrayed in Oliver Stone’s JFK, asked Vince to edit one of his books. Vince is front and center in Calvin Trillin’s 1967 New Yorker portrayal of conspiracy researchers. He made speeches. And if anything, his conclusion—what he surmised almost immediately when the President was murdered—has only grown firmer over the years: Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA and the U.S. military, not Lee Harvey Oswald.

Specter, meanwhile, went on to become … Arlen Specter. The bulldog senator who brought us the infamous battles over Robert Bork and Anita Hill. Specter never seemed to shy away from a good fight, and throughout his 30-year reign in the Senate, the Magic Bullet Theory followed him everywhere. It became theater at every public event and campaign stop where Specter fielded questions, the Senator pantomiming the movement of Commission Exhibit 399 through the President’s neck, out his tie knot in front and so forth. The questions never abated; his response was always the same: one gunman.

Specter would realize early on that he could thwart a lot of public animosity by asking a Magic Bullet skeptic if he had actually read the Warren Commission Report. Almost always, the answer was no.

But Vince Salandria had read it. He read the entire report­—all 888 pages—within a couple of weeks of it coming out. So he was ready for Arlen Specter at the meeting in City Hall back in 1964.

The two men had never discussed that night when Vince accused Specter of fraud—they had never even had a conversation before Specter called Vince out of the blue to ask him to lunch. They met in January 2012 at the Oyster House, one year after Specter’s five terms in the Senate were over. Later that year, Specter would be hit by a third round of cancer. By that October, he was dead.

At their lunch, Arlen Specter had a question for Vince Salandria.

JFK Conspiracy Theorist Vince Salandria photographed on January 29, 2014

Salandria at home in Philadelphia. Photo by Gene Smirnov

ON NEW YEAR’S EVE 1963, Specter got a call from a Yale Law School classmate, Harold Willens. Willens, a Warren Commission staff member, was searching for lawyers to work on the investigation. Already known as a tough prosecutor in Philadelphia, Specter had caught the attention of Attorney General Bobby Kennedy when he sent local Teamster boss Raymond Cohen to jail. It didn’t take Specter long to say yes to Willens, and from that moment forward he was working for the American government, seeking not just the answer to who killed the President, but also for a way to assure the American people that what had happened in Dallas wasn’t a harbinger of the Cold War getting out of control, that the world order hadn’t suddenly gone haywire.

Vince Salandria’s take on the assassination—and his mission—was quite different. But JFK’s killing would become central to his life, perhaps just as much as it was to Arlen Specter’s.

When the President was killed, Salandria was sure of something immediately: If Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t make it through that weekend alive, it meant the U.S. government was complicit in the President’s murder.

Like the rest of the nation, Vince watched on TV as Jack Ruby shot Oswald that Sunday. “I realized then that we didn’t have a democracy, we didn’t have a republican form of government anymore,” Vince says now, 50 years after the fact. “I knew that no innocent government would have permitted Oswald to be killed. Because if he was in fact guilty, they would want the world to know about him, and he would be convicted with due process, and we would show off our democratic justice system. So I realized that … our government did it. At the very highest level.

“I realized that it was dreadful for the nation, and dreadful for me, because I felt that somehow or other I was fixated on it and would have to investigate it. Would I live through this?”

Vince Salandria was a busy man in 1963. He was 35, married, with a young adopted son, and teaching history at Bartram; he was also a Penn-trained lawyer who did legal work on the side. But Vince had a problem. He landed almost immediately, he says, on why he believed President Kennedy was murdered: The military wanted him rubbed out because he had started getting friendly with Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev after the two leaders’ flirtation with holocaust, and because Kennedy wanted to get out of Vietnam; both those things, from the military’s point of view, would be bad for business. So the CIA killed the President at the military’s behest.

Vince wasn’t so bold, though, as to think his investigation would lead anywhere. If his theory was true, he was fighting very powerful forces. And the Warren Commission’s conclusion that the assassination was the work of Oswald—and only Oswald—made the sledding that much tougher for Vince; in 1964, the American public tended to trust that big-name Washington commissions could find, and then would be willing to reveal, the truth.

Vince didn’t believe that, though, and he couldn’t stop himself. He had graduated from Penn Phi Beta Kappa in three years, then stayed to get that law degree at age 23, but he’s fond of pointing out that he comes from Italian peasant stock—his father emigrated from a Southern Italian village by himself at age 13—and that his conspiracy claims stem first from intuition and then from a review of the facts, which he insists in this case aren’t very complicated. As to why he’s so driven in the way he’s driven, that seems innate.

“I was born with an almost underdog complex,” he explains. “I identified with the underdog from the beginning.”

Vince grew up in a South Philly rowhouse across from St. Agnes Hospital, one of eight children. His job as a boy was to deliver clothes uptown for his father, who was a tailor. One day, when he was 13, Vince was cutting through the ghetto and came upon two white cops savagely beating a black man. Blood poured from the man, and the cops kept right on beating him.

“That shocked me,” Vince says. “Power can’t treat human beings like this.”

At the same age—in 1941—Vince would go to school one day in December and regale his math class with the real meaning of what had just happened in the Pacific: The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was orchestrated by the American government, he told his classmates. It was President Roosevelt’s way of drawing a reluctant nation into war. That’s the way Vince thought at 13.

It’s quite easy, in fact, to imagine him lecturing his young classmates about the nature of American power, because now, at 85—at the other end of his life—the passion and sureness still flare. There’s no doubting Vince’s sincerity, nor his rage: The President’s assassination scared him, he says, “and it angered me. Angered me! I was furious!

So off he would go, to Dallas in the summer of 1964—even before the confrontation with Arlen Specter in City Hall—to see what he could learn.

Specter, meanwhile, was hard at work with the Warren Commission, upon which there was enormous pressure. President Johnson had played on the fear of a highly nervous time in wooing high-level Washington figures to join the investigation. Commission head Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, shared Johnson’s message with his staff: Conspiracy theories involving Russia, Cuba, the military-industrial complex, and even Johnson himself were already in play; if they were believed to be true, the President warned, the Kennedy assassination could lead America into a nuclear war that could kill 40 million people.

Lee Harvey Oswald panning out as a lone assassin would, of course, solve those problems. Earl Warren, even as he warned his commissioners that they weren’t advocates, that their conclusions would be based on wherever the evidence took them, had another directive: Make it snappy. The commission was under serious time and budget constraints. Warren would sit in on some testimony Arlen Specter would take from key witnesses, and he had an annoying habit: The Chief Justice would loudly tap his fingers, his signal to Specter to stop asking questions, to be done with it.

THE DEEPER HE DELVED into the assassination, Vince Salandria says, the more strange things began to happen to him.

In the summer of 1965, Vince made his second trip to Dallas, this time with Shirley Martin, a fellow assassination researcher who lived in Hominy, Oklahoma. He picked her up in his 1955 Buick one night, and the trip would immediately give them a harrowing sense that they weren’t traveling alone.

As they were leaving Hominy, with Shirley at the wheel, a local cop stopped them and wondered where they were going. On a trip, Shirley said.

“Watch your speed,” the officer told her. “Watch where you’re going.”

They drove all night, making it to Dealey Plaza in Dallas at about 6:30 the next morning. As they walked around the site of the assassination, a big man with a beard, wearing sandals, probably in his mid-50s, came out of a building and approached them.

“How’s Mark Lane?” he said to Vince. Lane, who would become well-known for his assassination research, had already written a few magazine pieces questioning the Warren Commission. Salandria and Lane had exchanged information.

Vince didn’t answer the man.

“Do you know what this is?” the man said, gesturing to the buildings around them. “It’s a WPA project. Tell Mark Lane to put in his next article that President Kennedy, a socialist president, was killed in a socialist plaza.”

The man moved off, leaving Vince with no idea how he’d known who Vince was.

Shirley and Vince next went to see Michael and Ruth Paine, a couple who had befriended Oswald in 1963. Michael Paine didn’t know Vince—and didn’t, Vince says, know he was coming with Shirley, who had set up the visit—but Paine immediately said to him, “Why don’t you continue your work in civil liberties and civil rights?” Vince had been a volunteer lawyer for the ACLU for a number of years. “Why are you doing this?”

Vince and Shirley drove to Fort Worth to see Marguerite Oswald, Lee’s mother.

“She made it quite clear,” Vince says, “that her son was a CIA agent—she was quite proud of it.” She said that she went to Washington after Lee had supposedly defected to Russia, visited the State Department, and they gave her the red-carpet treatment.

So Vince learned something important, but mostly what he took from this foray to Dallas was a message from, he believed, his government. “I got a thorough understanding of how impotent I was and how much in control they were,” he says.

Arlen Specter made his own trips to Dallas, to ask questions of a different sort.

Darrell Tomlinson was the senior engineer at Parkland Memorial Hospital who allegedly found on a stretcher the bullet that, Specter would argue, had hit the President and then Governor Connally—the Magic Bullet. But Tomlinson became a difficult witness when Specter questioned him under oath, saying he really wasn’t sure he’d found the bullet on Connally’s stretcher. After much back-and-forth over gurneys, Specter pressed:

SPECTER. Now, before I started to ask you questions under oath … I told you, did I not, that the Secret Service man wrote a report where he said that the bullet was found on the stretcher which you took off of the elevator—I called that to your attention, didn’t I?

TOMLINSON. Yes; you told me that.

SPECTER. Now, after I tell you that, does that have any effect on refreshing your recollection of what you told the Secret Service man?

TOMLINSON. No it really doesn’t—it really doesn’t.

A moment later:

TOMLINSON. I don’t remember telling him definitely—I know we talked about it, and I told him that it could have been. Now, he might have drawed his own conclusion on that.

Specter pressed a bit more, and got this response:

TOMLINSON. I’m going to tell you all I can, and I’m not going to tell you something I can’t lay down and sleep at night with either.

Nevertheless, that bullet, the commission concluded, was found on Connally’s stretcher.

Specter certainly won some points. He got Malcolm Perry, the Parkland Hospital doctor who cut into President Kennedy’s throat wound for a tracheotomy, to say that the wound could have been caused by an exiting bullet; it was crucial to Specter’s thesis that a bullet entering from behind Kennedy had come out his throat. Before Specter questioned him, Perry had already said publicly that the injury was an entrance wound, and years later he would regret his testimony to the commission, because he had no doubt: Kennedy had been shot from the front.

Specter was even accused by one witness of making outright threats. Jean Hill was sure she heard between four and six shots in Dealey Plaza, meaning there had to be more than one gunman. Specter, Hill wrote in a 1992 book with Bill Sloan about the experience, told her before he took her testimony that he knew all about her; Specter accused Hill of engaging in a “shabby extramarital affair” and said that unless she cooperated, she would be “very, very sorry.” She wrote that Specter threatened to make her seem as crazy as Marguerite Oswald, Lee Harvey’s mother. Hill’s testimony as released by the Warren Commission, which she claimed was inaccurate, is a study in ambiguity.

All this proves nothing one way or another, but Specter’s aggression is certainly quite … familiar. His Warren Commission work is an early glimpse—Specter was 33 when President Kennedy was shot—of the relentless prosecutor who would emerge onto a national stage three decades later in those Robert Bork and Anita Hill hearings.

Vince Salandria, though, sees Specter’s work for the Warren Commission as quite simple and clear: There was one intent, to prove that one loony gunman did it. To build a case. And Arlen Specter was brilliant at building cases.

GAETON FONZI, a writer for this magazine in the ’60s, had read Vince’s critique of Arlen Specter’s single-bullet theory in the Legal Intelligencer at the end of 1964. He thought he might write a short piece “about this crazy Salandria guy,” he later said. Fonzi, like most people in 1964, believed an official government report provided us with the truth.

Fonzi and another Philadelphia staff writer, Bernard McCormick, met up with Vince in a Wildwood motel room in 1966—the writers were working on a light piece about the Shore, and Vince was happy to make the trek down. McCormick remembers the meeting well (Fonzi died in 2012): “Vince was small and gaunt, and incredibly intense. He looked like a madman. I remember he kept saying, ‘Boys, don’t you see it? Don’t you see it?’ And within 45 minutes, just based on the physical evidence, he had convinced us the Warren Commission was bullshit.”

Vince would later have something else for them: a complete set of the Warren Commission report, all 26 volumes. Fonzi got hooked. Salandria would prep him for two long interviews with Arlen Specter the next year about the commission’s work; Specter’s evasiveness and inability to explain inconsistencies in the findings are chilling. (A recording of those interviews can be heard, here.)

The Warren Commission, for example, didn’t examine the Kennedy autopsy X-rays and photographs—supposedly in deference to the Kennedy family. That was crucial evidence, and Fonzi went right after Specter over not having seen it. From Fonzi’s Philadelphia story, published in August 1966:

“Did I ask to see the X-rays and photographs?” he [Specter] said, putting his head down, rubbing his chin and pausing for a long period to phrase his answer. “Aaaaah … that question was considered by me,” he finally said, “and … aaah … the commission decided not to press for the X-rays and photographs.”

He looked up. “Have I dodged your question? … Yes, I’ve dodged your question.”

He got up and paced behind his desk. Finally, he said quietly, “I don’t want to dodge your questions.”

Specter said that he had wanted to see the autopsy photographs and X-rays, but that “the commission reached the conclusion that it was not necessary.”

Fonzi asked Specter if he considered resigning over that.

“Absolutely not,” Specter said. “I would say absolutely not.”

But Fonzi would go on to dig deeper, talking to other commission staffers, and found out “that Specter was actually in tears when his argument [to see that evidence] was rejected.”

Fonzi left Specter’s office after those interviews with an entirely different level of trust in the U.S. government. But his devastating piece on Specter speaks, once again, to the acute pressure the commission felt—pressure that fell on Specter in particular.

Meanwhile, through the ’60s, Vince Salandria kept at it. His home, then on Delancey Street, was something of a meeting place among conspiracy theorists: Mark Lane, Fonzi, anti-war activist Dave Dellinger. Benjamin Spock showed up one night. Norman Mailer sent Vince a note on behalf of another researcher, requesting that Vince hear him out. Marie Fonzi, Gaeton’s widow, can still remember Vince at the center of it all: “He was like Sophocles,” she says, in the way he could make a case that not getting to the bottom of the assassination spelled doom for all of us.

Yet there was a cost to Vince. He left his true calling, teaching, in 1967, because his fellow teachers at Bartram High School stopped talking to him; they couldn’t abide his conspiracy theories, which Vince shared openly and constantly with his students. The administration wasn’t the problem—Vince was shunned by his colleagues. So off he went, into administrative work.

Vince began to feel his safety was at risk—he had doubled his life insurance before taking his mid-’60s trips to Dallas. He would eventually learn the FBI created a file on him. The most daunting warning came, as Vince would tell a writer chronicling conspiracy theorists, after a panel discussion with Yale professor Jacob Cohen, who supported the Warren Commission, in Boston in 1966.

Late that night, there was a knock on Vince’s hotel door. It was Cohen. “I feel horrible,” he told Vince. “I feel like a crumb. Debating the assassination is horrible.”

Vince told him that all he wanted was for the case to break. “We need to become more American,” he said. “We need to stop trying to act like a police state and go back to some of our original virtues, like skepticism of government and power. I can’t live in a police state—not Russian, Cuban or American.”

“It’s not a question of whether you want to live in a police state,” Cohen said. “You’ll have to be killed.”

This idea didn’t sound, to Vince, like an intellectual exercise. It sounded like Cohen was telling him something.

But in a curious way, it was a warning that reassured him. “If the government wants to kill you,” Vince says now, “they don’t tell you about it. You’re dead.”

Vince also says Cohen, who now teaches at Brandeis and didn’t respond to requests for comment, told him something else—that Arlen Specter had said to him, “What am I going to do about Vince Salandria?”

ON JANUARY 4, 2012, Vince Salandria and Arlen Specter met at the Oyster House for lunch. It was scheduled for noon, but Specter got there first and was seated; Vince came in and waited in front. Finally, after 40 minutes or so, Arlen Specter came out and found him.

They sat down. There was no one sitting near them. Specter was smiling and pleasant.

He had contacted Vince out of a random connection through mutual friends. Specter got Vince’s number and made the call, asking him if he’d have lunch.

But it was Vince who started talking, and kept talking. Specter listened.

Vince told Specter that he wanted him to know that if he had been assigned to work for the Warren Commission, as Arlen had been, and understood what he did now, that he, too, would have taken the assignment. He thought that Specter had a job to do as a lawyer.

Specter didn’t respond.

Vince said that not to do the work of the Warren Commission would have invited domestic disorder, and perhaps a dictatorship. The generals would have killed Vince, he told Specter, as quickly as Stalin would have. Specter probably saved his life.

Specter was quiet. His demeanor remained pleasant.

Vince explained what he hadn’t realized back in 1964: that the American people weren’t prepared to accept that military intelligence had assassinated the President in a coup. Vince added that his wife, a bright and rational woman, didn’t support his obsession with the assassination.

Specter listened.

Vince told Specter his rationale for the assassination—he had read correspondence between Kennedy and Khrushchev and concluded they were very fond of each other and were seeking to end the Cold War. The assassins wanted to continue the Cold War and to escalate the war in Vietnam. Vince told Specter he believed Kennedy was killed by the CIA with the approval of the military.

Specter took this in without comment.

Vince told him that he understood it was a conspiracy when Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, and that no guilty government would tell us the truth about an institutional killing of the President.

Vince went on in this vein a bit longer, explaining more of his insights about the assassination. Specter asked him—the first time he had said anything in some time—whether Vince spoke frequently to Mark Lane. Vince said no, he didn’t.

Then Specter asked Vince what he remembered about their 1964 confrontation at the bar association event in Specter’s honor. Vince told him he had attended with his copy of the Warren Report. Specter
wondered how long the report had been available—he thought it had been out only one week. Vince thought it was a couple of weeks. Specter seemed impressed with
how quickly Vince had digested the report.

Then Specter said: “You charged me then, at that meeting, with fraud.”

That was true. As Vince laid out his case in his first article, the Warren Commission’s work was speculation conforming to none of the evidence, without the slightest credibility, with errors in logic and contrary to the laws of physics and geometry. He was charging Specter with corruption. Of perpetrating a fraud.

And now, at lunch, Arlen Specter had a request. “Instead of calling me corrupt,” he said, “can you change it to incompetent?”

Almost a half-century had passed since the Warren Commission’s work had been made public; almost a half-century since the event at City Hall at which Vince Salandria stood up and asked his pointed questions. During that time, Arlen Specter was forever being asked about the Warren Report and the Magic Bullet. He was laughed at over his theory. Oliver Stone made a movie in which Specter was mocked, and the running joke in the Specter household was that his epitaph would lead with the Magic Bullet.

He had lived with the assassination, and his role in solving it, forever. And he hadn’t stopped living with it, upholding his responsibility to explain. Arlen Specter, those close to him say, believed in that responsibility. He told friends he was looking forward to 2013, the 50th anniversary of the assassination, because it was an opportunity to speak about solving the murder of the President yet again, to engage the issue once more. Specter, they say, hadn’t backed off one inch.

Vince Salandria, too, had lived with the assassination for a long time, and he, too, had paid a steep price. He says now that teaching is far and away his most important life’s work, his true calling, yet he taught at Bartram High for only eight years before his conspiracy theories made him an outlier among his fellow teachers. He’d end up spending three decades as a school-system lawyer. He did well. It was work he believed in. But it wasn’t the same as teaching.

Long ago, Vince Salandria said: “No matter what comes of this work”—the assassination research he and fellow obsessives kept plugging away at—“we have involved ourselves in the worthiest cause of our lives.”

He says he still believes that. “Until we really come to grips with the true meaning of the assassination—i.e., the coup, by military intelligence services of the country—civil liberties are necessarily restricted,” he says. “Every president since Kennedy knows what happened to him and why. Therefore, every president knows he’s circumscribed in terms of what he can do and who he can oppose and how much he opposes them.”

When Arlen Specter asked Vince Salandria to change his opinion of him from corrupt to incompetent, Vince told him that he couldn’t change it. He told Arlen Specter he knew from the public record that the Senator was quite competent then—in 1964—and that he was, at all times, competent. He had never considered Specter incompetent. And he wasn’t incompetent now.

Specter had no reaction to that, just as he hadn’t reacted to anything else Vince said.

Perhaps Specter, in asking Salandria to change his opinion, was admitting that the Warren Commission got it wrong, that the Magic Bullet and a lone gunman really don’t wash. Or perhaps it was simpler than that, a moment between two men who had lived with the same profound event for so long, who played such important and different roles in our understanding of what happened and, well … did Vince’s opinion have to be so harsh? Perhaps, in other words, it was merely a personal moment. Whatever he was up to, Arlen Specter certainly opened the door a crack to yet another debate about what he really believed.

He would ask Vince another question: Do you think the Warren Commission was a setup? That is, did Vince think Earl Warren was told that Lee Harvey Oswald had to be their man before there was any investigation at all?

Yes, Vince said.

Arlen Specter had no reaction to that, either, and remained pleasant to the end, even though, Vince is sure, he’d arranged lunch in order to hear one thing: that Vince could come to a new opinion about Specter’s work for the Warren Commission. Whatever personal redemption Specter may have been seeking, he left without it.

Though he didn’t leave empty-handed. On the way out of the Oyster House, Vince handed Specter a copy of James Douglass’s book JFK and the Unspeakable, published in 2008. The book is dedicated to Vince and another conspiracy theorist. Vince told Specter it was the best work ever written on the assassination.

First appeared in the March, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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  • In email Vince sent this morning, he observed, “that for a conventional magazine, his [Bob Huber’s] piece is unique. I congratulate him for doing a remarkable job. My sole criticism is on his underplaying the role of my hero, Gaeton Fonzi, and not mentioning the courage of his employer, Herbert Lipson, who has long demonstrated his undying passion for historical truth and the true role of a free press.”

    It is unfortunate that the author adopts the pseudo-debate meme “conspiracy theorist,” applying it more than once to Vince as well at the close, indirectly, to Marty Schotz, the second person Jim Douglas dedicates JFK and the Unspeakable to. In Schotz’s 1996 book, “History Will Not Absolve Us,” Marty writes in the section titled, “Letter to Vincent J. Salandria, April 5, 1995”:

    “All of this brings us to the real cover-up over all these years, which was not `Oswald’ per se but rather `the debate over Oswald.’ In this process we see the CIA following the principles of intelligence agency assassination and cover-up as outlined by Isaac Don Levine, an associate of Allen Dulles, in his analysis of the assassination of Leon Trotsky by the Soviet Union’s NKVD. As Levine revealed, the classic manner by which an intelligence agency attempts to cover itself is by the use of confusion and mystery. The public is allowed to think anything it wants, but is not allowed to know, because the case is shrouded in supposed uncertainty and confusion. This was and is the big lie, that virtually no one is sure who really killed President Kennedy or why.” (pp.11-12)

    “Because the work of Salandria, [Raymond] Marcus, and several others provided proof of a conspiracy that was simple and obvious, the media had to distort the work of these critics in order to rescue the government’s good name. In this effort the media resorted to Orwellian use of the term `conspiracy theorists’ in referring to all Warren Commission critics, including Salandria and Marcus. While there may be many conspiracy theorists among the critics of the Warren Report, Salandria and Marcus were not among them. Rather they were conspiracy provers. But by this use of language the media were able to take proof of conspiracy and turned it into theory of a conspiracy. With proof turned into theory, knowledge was turned into belief and the government was able to retreat to the position that perhaps the Warren Commission was mistaken, but of course no one would be `so extreme’ as to claim that Earl Warren and the other Commission members were anything but honorable men. Thus was launched the thirty-plus year debate over the Warren Report.

    “Since the Warren Report was an obvious fraud, so was the pseudo-debate over whether there was or wasn’t a conspiracy, a debate over a question which had long ago been answered definitively. This thirty-year pseudo-debate over the validity of the Warren Report has occupied the efforts and attention of many honest citizens who were taken in by it. Unwittingly many honest citizens, tricked into participation, became part of the cover-up, because the debate gave legitimacy to the notion that there was doubt and uncertainty when there really was none. While Salandria’s and Marcus’ proofs of conspiracy are detailed and conclusive, it turns out that there is a much simpler and more elegant proof of conspiracy which involves the bullet holes in the back of the President’s shirt and jacket. See Appendix III.” (Footnote, p.11)

    Schotz’ entire book is available online at , as well as words and works of Jim Douglass at , and an annotated hypertext version of Vince’s 1998 exposition, “The JFK Assassination: A False Mystery Concealing State Crimes” (see the top of ).

    Marty Schotz dedicated “History Will Not Absolve Us,” “To our children, all our children, the children of the world, who someday will want to know.” A primary voice in the effort to make it possible for the children of the world to know is Vincent Salandria. The combination of his common sense, humility, and practice of critical thinking inform his contribution to making an accurate diagnosis of this crisis.

    In his own “Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012” (Ibid) Vince expresses his opinion that his life was saved by the effectiveness of Mr. Specter’s work and the ineffectiveness of his own. In my view, Mr. Salandria’s devotion to honoring and serving Life’s needs was and is highly effective. His persistant tenacity caused him to speak and write as a witness to the truth of why President Kennedy was murdered by elements of the federal government that were determined not to allow JFK to pursue a rapprochement with the Soviet Union nor a normalizing of relations with Cuba; in other words, to lessen tensions that could have lead to a cessation of the Cold War. He stands as a shining light representing what a single human being can do to promulgate historical truth. As Vince writes in his own “Notes”:

    “I know that my efforts to convince people to oppose Kennedy’s assassins were feckless. But was the effort of a small community of people to establish the historical truth of the Kennedy assassination valueless? I think not. I feel that historical truth is the polestar which guides humankind when we grope for an accurate diagnosis of a crisis. Without historical truth, an accurate diagnosis of the nature and cause of crisis, we would have no direction on how to move to solve societal disease.”

  • Jane Yavis

    Arlen Specter’s One Bullet Theory was the political path Arlen Specter took. I don’t think even Arlen believed it.

  • Robert_Morrow

    Vincent Salandria has been one of the blue chip JFK researchers for decades – literally since the day of 11/22/63. Salandria correctly points out that the JFK assassination is a “false mystery” and the real issue is whether we are going to accept the reality that US military intelligence murdered JFK for Cold War reasons. I would add that the role of Lyndon Johnson in this murder is equally obvious. See the book LBJ: the Mastermind of the JFK Assassination by Phillip Nelson for that. (And, of course, Roger Stone’s book The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ)

    You can google a lot of these essays or find Salandria’s work on Amazon.

    1) False Mystery: Essays on the Assassination of JFK
    by Vincent Salandria

    2) Correspondence with Vincent Salandria by Michael

    3) History Will Not Absolve Us by E. Martin Schotz

    Web link to this fabulous book:

    4) Praise From a Future Generation: The Assassination of
    John F. Kennedy and the First Generation Critics of the Warren Report by
    John Kelin

    5) Google “Vincent Salandria False Mystery Speech.”

    6) Google “Vincent Salandria Spartacus” for his

    7) Google “The Waters of Knowledge versus the Waters
    of Uncertainty: Mass Denial in the Assassination of President Kennedy” by
    E. Martin Schotz

  • Robert_Morrow

    LYNDON JOHNSON HAD A MURDEROUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS ROBERT KENNEDY – “I’ll cut his throat if it’s the last thing I do.”

    Robert Caro describes the LBJ-RFK relationship post 1960 Democratic convention, where RFK had moved heaven and earth attempting to keep LBJ off the 1960 Democratic ticket. Caro:

    John Connally, who during long days of conversation with this author was willing to answer almost any question put to him, no matter how delicate the topic, wouldn’t answer when asked what Johnson said about Robert Kennedy. When the author pressed him, he finally said flatly: “I am not going to tell you what he said about
    him.” During the months after the convention, when Johnson was closeted
    alone back in Texas with an old ally he would sometimes be asked about Robert
    Kennedy. He would reply with a gesture. Raising his big right hand, he would draw the side of it across the neck in a slowing, slitting movement. Sometimes that gesture would be his only reply; sometimes, as during a meeting with Ed Clark in Austin, he would say, as his hand moved across his neck, “I’ll cut his throat if it’s the last thing I do.” [Robert Caro, “The Passage of Power,” p. 140]

  • rabbit23

    this story really confused me. so the leading conspiracy theorist had the huge opportunity to have lunch with arlen specter, and instead of asking him anything, like any questions at all that have been buggin him for fifty years, he instead just launches into a diatribe?? what a missed opportunity and how indicative of conspiracy theorists. dude, you were on the sidelines for 50 years, this guy was in the arena, there had to be something you wanted to get on the record, even personally, right???

    • Tom O’Neill

      That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking. Why lecture the guy when you had the opportunity to ask him the questions you’d been trying to get the answers to for fifty damned years? Especially when HE initiated the meeting! And if he wouldn’t answer outright, at least just follow his lead and ask him what the hell he meant by calling his work on the WC “incompetent.” So simple, yet so squandered. Makes me almost doubt it actually took place. Question for reporter Huber: what did Vince produce as far as notes, etc., to substantiate this lunch and what he says transpired during it? Also, have Spector’s family weighed in on this piece? Certainly, if he expressed doubts/guilt/whatever with Vince, he must’ve with them, too.

      • I think Vince was playing Specter very cleverly. He was flattering him, telling he was always a competent attorney, thanking him for keeping Vince off the commission where he no doubt would have been killed for insisting on finding the truth about the JFK assassination. He was basically telling Specter that he understood that Specter had to act as a moral coward. He invited Specter to confirm that.

        Vince was offering him something like a priestly absolution following confession. But Specter couldn’t do it. Vince must have been a masterful attorney.

        Remember it was Specter who asked for the meeting. Vince had every right to play it as he did.

        And always remember this: there is more genuine forensic investigation in a one hour TV episode of CSI or Perry Mason than in 13 years of 9-11 reporting in the whoreporate mess media.

        America: a nation of fools, by rules, for jewels will perish speedily from the earth.

      • The reason Vince didn’t ask penetrating questions to Specter is because he knew that Specter was incapable of telling the truth. He probably figured that if Specter asked for the meeting it was in order to confess that he had been morally compromised and fearful.

        No discussion could proceed until Specter confessed.

        Vince was not willing to waste his time listening to more bogus rationalizations and outright lies. He simply wanted Specter to say: “The Warren Commission was a shakedown operation from the get go.”

        But Specter was not up to it. He couldn’t get it up to tell the truth. Or just to admit he had been compromised.

      • Here are Vince’s notes as found on the Net:

        Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012

        by Vincent J. Salandria

        This is an annotated transcript that started with the copy at
        All hyperlinks by David Ratcliffe with the permission and sincere thanks of Vincent J. Salandria.

        Editor’s note:

        The following is distilled from observations shared with me
        by Martin Schotz and Vincent Salandria. It is useful to make
        explicit some of the implications in these Notes. An important
        element is what Mr. Specter did not say. First, his reaching
        out to Mr. Salandria to have lunch demonstrates that in Arlen
        Specter’s mind, Vincent Salandria was a person worthy of
        his respect and consideration. Secondly, at no point did Specter
        attempt to defend the veracity of the Warren Report. Instead,
        he seeks Salandria’s thoughts regarding:

        what was the reason for the assassination?

        what Mark Lane believed regarding the assassination?

        if the Warren Commission was a setup?

        A point of clarification that Mr. Salandria shared through e-mail
        is that Professor Jacob Cohen explicitly warned him, stating,
        “You will have to be killed.” Evidence of the intent to silence
        Mr. Salandria was the tampering with his car and another
        vehicle described in the following:

        “On several occasions the lug nuts on one wheel of my car
        were loosened so as to have the automobile threatened with the
        loss of a wheel at high speeds. When Jim Garrison sent a staff
        car to Philadelphia to have me deliver a manuscript to his book
        Heritage of Stone to his publisher, the car shook on the
        highway. When we pulled over, we discovered that the lug nuts were
        loosened on a wheel of that car. The Garrison car was driving us
        from Philadelphia to New York. The incident occurred while we were
        on the New Jersey turnpike driving at a high speed.”

        Vincent Salandria expresses his opinion that his life was saved
        by the effectiveness of Mr. Specter’s work and the
        ineffectiveness of his own. In this writer’s view, Mr.
        Salandria’s devotion to honoring and serving Life’s
        needs was and is highly effective. His persistant tenacity caused
        him to speak and write as a witness to the truth of why
        President Kennedy was murdered by elements of the federal government
        that were determined not to allow JFK to pursue a rapprochement
        with the Soviet Union nor a normalizing of relations with Cuba;
        in other words, to lessen tensions that could have lead to a
        cessation of the Cold War. He stands as a shining light
        representing what a single human being can do to promulgate
        “historical truth [as] the polestar which guides
        humankind when we grope for an accurate diagnosis of a

        Martin Schotz dedicated History
        Will Not Absolve Us, “To our children, all
        our children, the children of the world, who someday will
        want to know.” A primary voice in the effort to
        make it possible for the children of the world to know is
        Vincent Salandria. The combination of his common sense,
        humility, and practice of critical thinking inform his
        contribution to making an accurate diagnosis of this crisis.

        This recounting of their meeting—which occurred because
        Mr. Specter reached out to Mr. Salandria—indicates an
        attempt by Mr. Specter to meet as equals with a former adversary
        for the purpose of coming to terms with a portion of his life
        about which he was ambivalent. The tone of the exchange conveys
        a meeting of equals who related to each other with honor and
        respect. From the observation that, “Specter was smiling
        broadly as we left,” it can be deduced that for Arlen
        Specter this meeting provided some solace and resolution
        regarding his participation in as conflicted a so-called
        investigation as the Warren Commission was. Regarding this, I
        asked Mr. Salandria to clarify the implication of Mr. Specter
        recalling “that in our confrontation [in 1964] I had
        accused him of corruption”:

        “Arlen Specter wanted me to declare him
        ‘incompetent’ and not ‘corrupt.’ I feel
        that this was an essential aspect of his desire to share a
        lunch with me. Given his sharp intelligence, rich experience as
        a district attorney and ambition for political office, I could
        not in good conscience satisfy this need of his.
        Additionally, I could not oblige Specter because I recognize that
        incompetency is much employed to seek to cover up the U.S. state
        crime of killing President Kennedy and many other covert U.S.
        warfare state atrocities. I have never declared the covert
        actions of the U.S. intelligence agencies to be incompetent. They
        are almost invariably and unerringly competent in murdering,
        individually and massively, in defense of U.S. military dominance
        and empire.”

        Beyond this, Mr. Salandria related Arlen Specter’s genuine
        interest in listening without rebuttal or interruption to his
        former opponent’s understanding of why the assassination

        “On the issue of what Specter left unsaid, the following subjects
        went unexplored by him or me. Was there a conspiracy? Who were
        the shooters? Specter asked a question about the setup of
        Oswald by the Warren Commission. This opening allowed me to go
        directly to the explanation of the motivation for the
        assassination. He was willing to bypass 49 years of unfruitful
        and phony debate on whether there was a conspiracy and who were
        the shooters in the bushes. Instead, Specter discussed the
        Commission’s setup which lead to my discussion of the motivation
        for the killing. He was willing to hear me out without a word of
        rebuttal. He listened carefully to the motivation for the
        assassination that James Douglass in
        and the Unspeakable
        has resolved through solid and convincing proof i.e. that JFK was
        killed by U.S. intelligence to perpetuate the Cold War.”

        Through his actions regarding this meeting, Arlen Specter
        expresses the same human capacity to change and grow as was
        indicated in the
        question President Kennedy posed to the Quakers who visited
        him in the Oval Office on May 1, 1962: “You believe in
        redemption don’t you?”

        • paul williams

          thanks for the links.

    • Pat Speer

      There are a number of JFK “researchers” with Salandria being Exhibit A, who haven’t researched the case in decades. They decided long ago that there was a conspiracy involving the government, and consider debating specific points a waste of time. In this light, then, Salandria’s reluctance to engage Specter in an actual discussion is not the least bit surprising.

      When it comes to Specter, moreover, Salandria may have been right to draw a line. In 1964, Specter nagged the government into showing him a photo of Kennedy’s back wound. A tracing of this photo was later released. it showed a wound on the back, inches below the shoulder line. Specter then turned around and told everyone the wound was at the base of the neck, and used the wound’s being at the base of the neck to help sell his single-bullet theory.

      All the while knowing that the wound was actually inches below this location…

      Unless Specter was willing to admit his deception, there wasn’t much point in talking to him.

  • My November 21, 2013 presentation at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas was focused in large part on the central question in this story: was Arlen Specter incompetent or a liar? Sadly, I concluded the latter. An extended discussion of this question can be found midway through this webpage:

  • Magnum Opus

    Specter would be dead about 10 months later. Mason Gerald Ford pushed to get Specter on the Warren Commission. Specter was Pennsylvania state senator and some say he served nearly as long as Mason Ben Franklin.

    Vince S. is very close—–he needs to add in the FDR Mason days and FDR’s “Four Freedoms” issues that offended the Masons and England. JFK echoed FDR on elimination of Imperialism and wanted Algeria to gain self-determination, along with de Gaulle, who was targeted for death also, using funds from Dallas and New Orleans.

    FDR was even going to go after releasing Vietnam from French control and release Hong Kong from English control, and that was to happen just following the time of FDR’s death, due to what many suggest was poisoning. Then Mason Truman took over and soon the CIA was under control of Mason Dulles, who JFK fired.

    When the Pope died in mid 63, the Vatican went for peaceful co-existence with Communism and JFK went along also. JFK bypassed what FDR called an English filled state Department to communicate with Khrushchev and Castro and peace was coming quickly.

    Near Dallas, a Mason party at Clint Murchison’s house celebrated that Mason Hoover had forced LBJ onto the 1960 Los Angeles JFK ticket, and much as happened with Lincoln’s bullet in the head, and Mason Andrew Jackson taking over happened with Mason supported LBJ taking over.

    Even the Civil Rights movement was filled with White Supremacist Masons acting in the same fashion as what they did with Prince Hall Masons in the Southern Scottish Rite. Almost all the biggest Black Civil Rights folks were Prince Hall Masons going against the Southern Apartheid Scottish Rite hate for Blacks in the South and wanting segregation.

    Add in the Masons involved before the JFK hit, and those involved after the Mason JFK and you find Hoover common to both times. Plus, LHO’s handler was Mason Guy Banister. Warren was a Mason, Gerald Ford Mason, Arlen Specter Mason, et al.

    Add in the old history of Mason Lamar of the Texas 8F gang’s namesake, and you discover JFK went after Bobby Baker and LBJ as part of that Mason click. You also discover that Zapruder was a Mason and then he sold his film to Mason Henry Luce and that was used to suppress the article on Baker and LBJ that was to appear just after the assassination date.

    Then you really solve the JFK hit and why.

    • paul williams

      Andrew Who ???
      Magnum, you ought to find an outlet where you can footnote this stuff. Footnotes are a boon to plausibility. People would definitely take the time to read you.
      Andrew Jackson had been the Masonic Grand Kleagle in Tennessee back when Lincoln was still plying Illinois high school basketball. But he also killed the Bank.
      He must have been the only Mason on the planet who didn’t get the message on the need for privatized national exchequers.
      Johnson, A. was another story.
      Go, Magnum!

    • Reinhard GAYlen

      …..funny…..I remember the words from the masonic ceremony which revolves around someone named “LeBiff” and some stupid code-word “Mahabone “…however, the most intriguing part is how “anyone who betrays the secret WILL HAVE HIS BRAINS EXPOSED TO THE MIDDAY SUN ! ” Isn’t that what happened EXACTLY to our 35th President !!!!……hmmmmmm…..

  • Magnum Opus

    Solving the JFK murder is as simple as recounting the history for FDR, as JFK was a follower of FDR’s great insights. Study the FDR history going against English Imperialism and you find Churchill’s hate of FDR and the need of the English to be rid of FDR.

    FDR was going to put England under International Control to eliminate their Imperialism push on the world. FDR was countering their using WWII as their boost into world power.

    Study the history of FDR on Vietnam, Hong Kong, Algeria, et al.

  • SRVES339

    Rarely do you find a comment thread that upstages the original piece as much as this one… thanks to all.

    No matter how much more truth I learn on the subject the reaction is always the same, profound sadness… the world changed that day in Dallas, the gloves came off, the masters of the universe revealed the evil of power for all who cared to see… and the crimes of the elite just get more brazen (and desperate) each day.

    What a wonderful world?

  • Comment from Jacob Cohen of Brandeis following my bringing this article to his attention:

    From: Jacob Cohen
    To: Menachem Mevashir
    Sent: Thu, Mar 6, 2014 3:37 pm
    Subject: Re: Vince Salandria: The JFK Conspiracy Theorist

    Dear Menachem Mevashir: The material on me is complete nonsense. Totally invented. There was no such public debate.. There was no such conversation at a hotel, all that is either a , a hallucination, or a lie. It didn’t happen! I was not teaching at Yale at the time and had not been for five years. I have never spoken such words and I don’t believe that Vincent said that I did. If he did, I regret his dementia.

    I did meet him in the mid- sixties, at his home in Philadelphia. I was living in New Jersey then away from Brandeis, where I started in 1960, and working as a writer with CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. I initiated the meeting, as I have with meetings with other conspiracists through the years, wishing to discuss his early articles which I thought were formidable, but dead wrong. I explained why to him and to several associates in suspicion whom he he had gathered for the occasion.

    Perhaps Fonzi was there but I didn’t know the name yet so can’t recall meeting him, ever. Somehow I recall a mock up of Dealy plaza, quite elaborate, perhaps in the basement, but I know the tricks that memory can play, I teach about that stuff in my conspiracy course at Brandeis. But of this I am certain, there was no public debate and no exchange such as is reported above. Me warning him that he was in danger? That, as we used to say in the civil rights movement is worse than bull—-. It is snake—-. It would be much more likely for me to warn him that he was not in danger, in the slightest, and they he was only in danger of losing the paranoid fantasy which he was so addicted to. I liked him, that I recall. I am glad that he has eluded his would-be assassins. Many years later, just a few years ago in fact, we laughed about our divergent views in a surprise encounter at Brandeis University, where he came, I think in connection with a graduation.

    Advise the purveyors of this mishagas to seek help. And if you yourself, are of this mindset, take the advise yourself.

    Jacob Cohen

  • JimGlover

    It is incredible for me to see as I told Poppy Bush when i was kid “This is about Russia Isn’t it?”

    Like in the wars on Russia, there are two stories for everything which can only mean the truth is systematically being obscured with a Psy ops plan that keeps the coup going in the belief that “Just trying to keep the public safe” can be the untimate excuse for any war crime or violation of human rights.

    Like Oliver Stone asked, “can we have a Communist hero”? ~ “Castro got him first” LBJ

  • paul williams

    Thank you Mr. Huber. You seem to have an accurate feel for this business.

  • david krall

    from; david t. krall

    I applaud and thank Phila. Magazine for this article…Vincent Salandria
    is to be commended and saluted along with Gaeton Fonzi, and all the early
    researchers such as Josiah “Tink” Thompson, Mark Lane, RB Cutler, Jones
    Harris, Maggie Fields, Shirley Martin, Lillian Castelano, Joachim Joesten,
    Harold Wiesberg, Penn Jones, Sylvia Meagher, Mae Brussell, Donald Freed,
    Richard E. Sprague, Dick Russell, David Lifton and all the others who never gave up and paved the way for other concerned citizens who deeply care about this nation….why oh why didn’t we see thru this when it happened???
    On 7/20/44 a (large) group of good men tried to kill a monster…
    On 11/22/63 a (large) group of monsters killed a good man…

  • david krall

    from: david t.krall
    follow-up: may I add also, Ray Marcus, Harold Feldman, Leo Sauvage, Thomas Buchanan, Fred Cook, Richard Popkin, Edward J. Epstein, Paris Flammonde,
    Sylvia Fox, Stanley Marks, Red (Rojas) Robinson also as early trailblazers who also never gave up and “sniffed, dug, clawed and scratched” for the truth…a truth and justice that has been denied and unrecognized, with deliberate & witting contempt by our own government & some lapdogs and sycophants in the media.

  • Vince Salandria

    Professor Jacob Cohen denies having participated in a panel discussion with me on Wednesday, November 30, 1966, at the Charles Street Meeting House in Boston which was billed as “Seven Judges, No Jury- A Second Look at the Murder of a President.” As an irrefutable fact, the discussion occurred. The panel consisted of seven people, two of whom were Professor Cohen and me. An extensive reporting of that meeting with Professor Cohen is found in the book of John Kelin, the author of “Praise from a Future Generation,” Wing Press San Antonio, Texas 2007, pages 335-338.

    The professor declared that my recollection of the 1966 events was false, an invention, caused by my fantasy and dementia. In declaring my account spurious Professor Cohen writes in the service of the national-security state which profits from untruth and war. In writing and proving the falsity of the professor’s denial of the events of November 30, 1966 in Boston I stubbornly persist in seeking to serve our people who profit from historical truth and peace.

  • david krall

    from: david t. krall

    Bravo !!! Mr. Vincent Salandria…Bravo! Thank you for your research and insights
    …from one longtime researcher to another…your perspectives and perceptiveness
    have contributed in a monumental way to shed light on a “dark” chapter in US and
    World History…if more light was used, shined and eminated in 1964…I believe justice, truth, real truth…and power could and would have been wrestled away or at least tempered the interests that was behind the “coup” of 11/22, 1963. with some, or most of the key players exposed, disgraced, jailed, exiled and/or “worse”…while others scurrying like rats and other types of rodents under any number or type of legal, financial, and/or national security “cloaks” or “blankets”…