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House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)

In 1976, the House Select Committee on Assassinations undertook reinvestigations of the murders of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1979, a single Final Report and twelve volumes of appendices on each assassination were published by the Congress. In the JFK case, the HSCA found that there was a “probable conspiracy,” though it was unable to determine the nature of that conspiracy or its other participants (besides Oswald). This finding was based in part on acoustics evidence from a tape purported to record the gunfire in Dealey Plaza, but was also based on other evidence including an investigation of Jack Ruby’s underworld connections. The acoustics evidence was disputed by a panel of scientists, but that “debunking” has itself been subject to serious challenge in recent years.

The massive internal files of the HSCA were unsealed in the wake of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. Still being digested by researchers, they have shed more light on the assassination itself and also on the conduct of the HSCA’s investigation. Contained herein are some of the more important documents from that collection, including the long-desired “Lopez Report” and many formerly-secret depositions.

  1. HSCA Final Report
  2. HSCA Appendix Volumes
  3. HSCA Executive Sessions
  4. HSCA Security Classified Testimony
  5. HSCA Security Classified Files
  6. HSCA Immunized Testimony
  7. HSCA Segregated CIA Collection (staff notes)
  8. HSCA Briefing Books
  9. HSCA Press Releases
  10. HSCA Numbered Files
  11. HSCA Numbered Photographs
  1. Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City (aka “Lopez Report”)
  2. Transcript of HSCA Critics’ Conference of 17 Sep 1977

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JFK Assassination Records

Home > Research Our Records > The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection > Table of Contents > Summary of Findings

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Summary of Findings

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

  • Findings in the Assassination of President Kennedy
  • Findings in the Assassination of Reverend King
  • Recommendations of the Select Committee on Assassinations

I. Findings of the Select Committee on Assassinations

in the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Tex., November 22, 1963

  1. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third

    shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President.

    1. President Kennedy was struck by two rifle shots fired from behind him.
    2. The shots that struck President Kennedy from behind him were fired from the sixth floor

      window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

    3. Lee Harvey Oswald owned the rifle that was used to fire the shots from the sixth floor

      window of the southeast comer of the Texas School Book Depository building.

    4. Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the assassination, had access to and was present on the

      sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building.

    5. Lee Harvey Oswald’s other actions tend to support the conclusion that he assassinated

      President Kennedy.

  2. Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at

    President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two

    gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific

    conspiracy allegations.

  3. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President

    John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee is unable

    to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.

    1. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Soviet

      Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

    2. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Cuban

      Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

    3. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro

      Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that

      the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been

      involved.

    4. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national

      syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President

      Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual

      members may have been involved.

    5. The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency were

      not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

  4. Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees

    of competency in the fulfillment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not receive

    adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee

    Harvey Oswald for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was conducted. The

    investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. The

    conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion

    that was too definitive.

    1. The Secret Service was deficient in the performance of its duties.
    2. The Secret Service possessed information that was not properly analyzed, investigated

      or used by the Secret Service in connection with the President’s trip to Dallas; in addition,

      Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the President

      from a sniper.

    3. The responsibility of the Secret Service to investigate the assassination was terminated

      when the Federal Bureau of Investigation assumed primary investigative responsibility.

  5. The Department of Justice failed to exercise initiative in supervising and directing

    the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the assassination.

  6. The Federal Bureau of Investigation performed with varying degrees of competency in the

    fulfillment of its duties.

    1. The Federal Bureau of Investigation adequately investigated Lee Harvey Oswald prior to

      the assassination and properly evaluated the evidence it possessed to assess his potential

      to endanger the public safety in a national emergency.

    2. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a thorough and professional investigation

      into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

    3. The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a

      conspiracy to assassinate the President.

    4. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was deficient in its sharing of information with

      other agencies and departments.

  7. The Central Intelligence Agency was deficient in its collection and sharing of information both prior to and subsequent to

    the assassination.

  8. The Warren Commission performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of

    its duties.

    1. The Warren Commission conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the

      responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

    2. The Warren Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy

      to assassinate the President. This deficiency was attributable in part to the failure of

      the Commission to receive all the relevant information that was in the possession of other agencies and departments of the Government.

    3. The Warren Commission arrived at its conclusions, based on the evidence available to

      it, in good faith.

    4. The Warren Commission presented the conclusions in its report in a fashion that was too

      definitive.

Page 3

Findings of the Select Committee on Assassinations in the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther

King, Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. April 4, 1968

  1. James Earl Ray fired one shot at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The shot killed Dr. King.
    1. Dr. King was killed by one rifle shot fired from in front of him.
    2. The shot that killed Dr. King was fired from the bathroom window at the rear of a

      roominghouse at 422 1/2 South Main Street, Memphis, Tenn.

    3. James Earl Ray purchased the rifle that was used to shoot Dr. King and transported it from Birmingham,

      Ala. to Memphis, Tenn., where he rented a room at 422 1/2 South Main Street, and moments after

      the assassination, he dropped it near 424 South Main Street.

    4. It is highly probable that James Earl Ray stalked Dr. King for a period immediately

      preceding the assassination.

    5. James Earl Ray fled the scene of the crime immediately after the assassination.
    6. James Earl Ray’s alibi for the time of the assassination, his story of “Raoul”, and other allegedly exculpatory evidence

      are not worthy of belief.

    7. James Earl Ray knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily pleaded guilty to the first degree murder of Dr. King.
  2. The committee believes, on the basis of the circumstantial evidence available to it, that

    there is a likelihood that James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King as a result of a

    conspiracy.

  3. The committee believed on the basis of the evidence available to it, that no private

    organizations or individuals, other than those discussed under section B, were involved in the assassination of Dr.

    King.

  4. No Federal, State or local government agency was involved in the assassination of Dr. King.
  5. The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation performed with varying degrees of competency and legality in

    the fulfillment of their duties.

    1. The Department of Justice failed to supervise adequately the Domestic Intelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of

      Investigation. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the Domestic Intelligence Division’s

      COINTELPRO campaign against Dr. King, grossly abused and exceeded its legal authority and failed to consider

      the possibility that actions threatening bodily harm to Dr. King might be encouraged by the

      program.

    2. The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation performed a thorough

      investigation into the responsibility of James Earl Ray for the assassination of Dr. King,

      and conducted a thorough fugitive investigation, but failed to investigate adequately the

      possibility of conspiracy in the assassination. The Federal Bureau of Investigation manifested a lack of

      concern for constitutional rights in the manner in which it conducted parts of the investigation.

Page 4

III. Recommendations of the Select Committee on Assassinations

I. Legislative recommendations on issues involving the

prohibition, prevention and prosecution of assassinations and federally cognizable

homicides

  1. Prohibition and prevention–
    1. The Judiciary Committee should process for early consideration by the House legislation

      that would make the assassination of a Chief of State of any country, or his political equivalent, a

      Federal offense, if the offender is an American citizen or acts on behalf of an American citizen, or if the offender can be located in the United

      States.

    2. The Judiciary Committee should process for early consideration by the House comprehensive legislation that would

      codify, revise and reform the Federal law of homicide, paying special attention to assassinations. The Judiciary Committee

      should give appropriate attention to the related offenses of conspiracy, attempt, assault and kidnaping in the context of

      assassinations. Such legislation should be processed independently of the general proposals for the codification, revision

      or reform of the Federal criminal law. The committee should address the following issues in considering the legislation:

      1. Distinguishing between those persons who should receive the protection of Federal

        law because of the official positions they occupy and those persons who should receive protection

        of Federal law only in the performance of their official duties,

      2. Extending the protection of Federal law to persons who occupy high judicial and executive

        positions, including Justices of the Supreme Court and Cabinet officers,

      3. The applicability of these laws to private individuals the exercise of constitutional rights,
      4. The penalty to be provided for homicide and the related offenses, including the applicability

        and the constitutionality of the death penalty,

      5. The basis for the exercise of Federal jurisdiction, including domestic and extraterritorial

        reach,

      6. The preemption of State jurisdiction without the necessity of any action on the part of the Attorney

        General where the President is assassinated,

      7. The circumstances under which Federal jurisdiction should preempt State jurisdiction in other

        cases,

      8. The power of Federal investigative agencies to require autopsies to be performed,
      9. The ability of Federal investigative agencies to secure the assistance of other Federal or State

        agencies, including the military, other laws notwithstanding,

      10. The authority to offer rewards to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime,
      11. A requirement of forfeiture of the instrumentalities of the crime,
      12. The condemnation of personal or other effects of historical interest,
      13. The advisability of providing, consistent with the first amendment, legal trust devices to hold

        for the benefit of victims, their families, or the general treasury, the profits realized from books, movie rights, or public

        appearances by the perpetrator of the crime, and

      14. The applicability of threat and physical zone of protection legislation to persons under the

        physical protection of Federal investigative or law enforcement agencies.

    3. The appropriate committees of the House should process for early consideration by the House charter

      legislation for the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The committees should address the following issues in

      considering the charter legislation:

      1. The proper foreign and domestic intelligence functions of the intelligence and investigative agencies

        of the United States,

      2. The relationship between the domestic intelligence functions and the interference with the exercise of individual

        constitutional rights,

      3. The delineation of proper law enforcement functions and techniques including:
        1. The use of informants and electronic surveillance,
        2. guidelines to circumscribe the use of informants or electronic surveillance to

          gather intelligence on, or investigate, groups that may be exercising first amendment

          freedoms, and

        3. the proper response of intelligence or investigative agencies where information is

          developed that an informant has committed a crime,

      4. Guidelines to consider the circumstances, if any, when an investigative agency or a component of that

        agency should be disqualified from taking an active role in an investigation because of an

        appearance of impropriety growing out of a particular intelligence or investigative

        action,

      5. Definitions of the legislative scope and extent of “sources and methods” and the “informant

        privilege” as a rationale for the executive branch withholding information in response to congressional or judicial

        process or other demand for information,

      6. Institutionalizing efforts to coordinate the gathering, sharing, and analysis of intelligence

        information,

      7. Insuring those agencies that primarily gather intelligence perform their function so as to serve

        the needs of other agencies that primarily engage in physical protection, and

      8. Implementing mechanisms that would permit inter-agency tasking of particular functions.
  2. Prosecution–
    1. The Judiciary Committee should consider the impact of the provisions of law dealing with third-party records,

      bail and speedy trial as it applies to both the investigation and prosecution of federally cognizable homicides.

    2. The Judiciary Committee should examine recently passed special prosecutor legislation to determine if its

      provisions should be modified to extend them to Presidential assassinations and the circumstances, if any, under which they should be

      applicable to other federally cognizable homicides.

II. Administrative recommendations to the Executive

The Department of Justice should reexamine its contingency plans for the handling of

assassinations and federally cognizable homicides in light of the record and findings of the

committee. Such an examination should consider the following issues:

  1. Insuring that its response takes full advantage of inter- and intra-agency task forces

    and the strike force approach to investigations and prosecutions,

  2. Insuring that its response takes full advantage of the advances of science and technology,

    and determining when it should secure independent panels of scientists to review or perform

    necessary scientific tasks, or secure qualified independent forensic pathologists

    to perform a forensic autopsy,

  3. Insuring that its fair trial/free press guidelines consistent with an alleged offender’s

    right to a fair trial, allow information about the facts and circumstances surrounding an

    assassination promptly be made public, and promptly be corrected when erroneous information

    is mistakenly released, and

  4. Entering at the current time into negotiations with representatives of the media to secure

    voluntary agreements providing that photographs, audio tapes, television tapes, and related

    matters, made in and around the site of assassinations, be made available to the Government

    by consent immediately following an assassination.

III. General recommendations for congressional investigations

  1. The appropriate committees of the House should consider

    amending the rules of the House to provide for a right to appointive

    counsel in investigative hearings where a witness is unable to provide

    counsel from private funds.

  2. The appropriate committees of the House should examine the rules of the House governing

    the conduct of counsel in legislative and investigative hearings and consider delineating

    guidelines for professional conduct and ethics, including guidelines to deal with conflicts

    of interest in the representation of multiple witnesses before a committee.

  3. The Judiciary Committee should examine the adequacy of Federal law as it provides for the

    production of Federal and State prisoners before legislative or investigative committees under

    a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum.

  4. The appropriate committees of the House should examine and clarify the applicability to congressional subpoenas of recently

    enacted legislative restrictions on access to records and other documents.

  5. The appropriate committees of the House should consider legislation that would authorize the establishment of a legislative

    counsel to conduct litigation on behalf of committees of the House incident to the investigative or legislative activities and confer

    jurisdiction on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to hear such lawsuits.

  6. The appropriate committees of the House should consider if rule 11 of the House should be amended, so as to restrict the current

    access by all Members of the House to the classified information in the possession of any committee.

IV. Recommendations for further investigation

  1. The Department of Justice should contract for the examination

    of a film taken by Charles L. Bronson to determine its significance if any, to the

    assassination of President Kennedy.

  2. The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice of the Department of Justice

    and the National Science Foundation should make a study of the theory and application of the

    principles of acoustics to forensic questions, using the materials available in the assassination of

    President John F. Kennedy as a case study.

  3. The Department of Justice should review the committee’s findings and report in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., and after completion of the recommended investigation enumerated in sections A and B, analyze whether further official

    investigation is warranted in either case. The Department of Justice should report its analyses

    to the Judiciary Committee.

Bibliographic note: Web version based on the Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the

U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC: United States Government Printing

Office, 1979. 1 volume, 686 pages. The formatting of this Web version may differ from the

original.

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