(c) Chris Scally
The final report of the United States' House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (the HSCA) was published on July 29, 1979. This second official investigation into the Kennedy assassination found that President Kennedy was "probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy", although Lee Harvey Oswald did fire three of the four shots, and he fired the shot that actually killed the President. The HSCA's report stated that "scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired" at the President Oswald from the Texas School Book Depository building above and behind the President, and a second, unidentified gunman from the grassy knoll in front and to the right of the motorcade.
The HSCA’s “scientific acoustical evidence” was based on a study of recordings of the transmissions over the Dallas Police radio on the day of the assassination. The HSCA’s scientific experts concluded that these recordings contained a series of impulses which they believed represented gunshot sound patterns. Furthermore, the scientists concluded that the sounds had been recorded by a police motorcycle radio which was stuck in ‘transmit’ mode, and that the motorcycle was that of Officer H.B. McLain, who was riding some 120-140 feet behind the President’s limousine.
However, on January 4, 1979, just two days after the HSCA’s summary findings were published, and exactly one week after his own public testimony, McLain told CBS television viewers that he was not the officer in question. The dispute over the identity of the officer with the open mike has continued to this day, and it remains central to the question of whether or not the acoustics evidence merits consideration as powerful evidence of more than one gunman in Dealey Plaza.
In a 66-page endnote to his book “Reclaiming History”, author Vincent Bugliosi dismisses the HSCA’s acoustics evidence. Of the acoustic scientists whose work formed the basis of that acoustics evidence, Bugliosi said their “presumed expertise”, “demonstrated incompetence” and “possible zeal to become famous” led them to “unintentionally” mislead the HSCA.
However, hidden away in this important footnote, but not referenced in the book’s Index, are three remarkable revelations:
- The alleged identity of yet another Dallas Police officer as “the officer with the open mike”, which is at the heart of the acoustics evidence;
- The claim that this officer’s identity was common knowledge in the immediate aftermath of the assassination; and
- The very serious allegation that his identity was made known to (but apparently ignored by) a HSCA investigator.