Features: The Warren Commission, The Truth, and Arlen Specter: Part 1

BASICALLY, THE TASK of the Warren Commission stall was to evaluate reports submitted by various government policies, chiefly the FBI and the Secret Service. (The FBI had quickly conducted its own investigation into the assassination and submitted more than 25,000 reports.) From the reports, the staff lawyers had to decide what witnesses would be questioned further, which should be brought to testify before the formal hearings of the Commission (only 94 of the 552 who provided testimony finally were), what questions needed further investigation and what details were relevant or irrelevant. There were no independent investigators. If something needed checking, the staff lawyers had to do it themselves or ask for an FBI or Secret Service report on the matter.

It had initially been decided that the Commission staff should be divided into senior counsel and junior counsel "teams" to look into various areas, resolve the minor problems and inconsistencies, and present before the Commission itself only the major questions. The team report for each area would serve as the basis for the principal chapters in the Commission’s final Report

Arlen Specter was assigned as junior counsel to Area I, "the basic facts of the assassination." Senior counsel in the area was to have been Francis W. H. Adams, a former New York City police commissioner. But because Adams was so wrapped up in a major case with his own law firm, he wound up spending only a few clays working on the Commission investigation. Practically the entire workload for the most important area of the assassination fell on Arlen Specter alone.

The rest of the Commission staff worked on five other areas. Area II was concerned with the identity of the assassin. Chapter IV of the Report, which evolved from it, was entitled "The Assassin" and concerned itself with evidence which indicated that it was Oswald who fired from the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. Area III of the investigation was devoted to Oswald’s background. Area IV looked into the question of whether Oswald was connected with any conspiracy and investigated his movements outside the country. Area V dealt with Oswald’s death, including the possibility of a prior connection with Jack Ruby. A sixth area, which was added later at the request of the Commission, studied Presidential protection in general.

Thus, before an objective evaluation of the facts concerning the assassination of President Kennedy ever got under way, it was decided that four of the six areas of investigation should concern themselves with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Arlen Specter knew it.