National Photographic Interpretation Center
The National Photographic Interpretation Center, whose functions have since been absorbed into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), was formerly a component of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T). NPIC produced imagery interpretation reports, briefing boards, videotapes for national-level consumers, and provided support for the military. NPIC employed some 1,200 image interpreters and archivists.
NPIC — Washington Navy Yard – 4 meter resolution
FROM: The wizards of Langley: inside the CIA’s Directorate
http://books.google.com/books?id=bM9r_83Ito8C&pg=PA162&lpg=PA162&dq=NPIC+5th+%26+K+St.&source=bl&ots=qFGUG7gapl&sig=xRrkVvh5J6y3Vcvpvk8ALdZbZRM&hl=en&ei=b8VGS_HwJMHBlAeylYwN&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAcQ6AEwAA – v=onepage&q=&f=false
In 1962, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and members of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board visited and were shocked by the conditions at 5th and K and advised the President that NPIC needed a new building. 3
Kennedy promptly told DCI John McCone “to get them out of that structure” and wanted to know how soon a move could be accomplished. McCone recommended that the Naval Gun Factory appeared to be a reasonable choice but that it would require a year to refurbish it. Kennedy’s reply was “All right, you do it.” 4
On January 1, 1963, NPIC move into its new home – Building 213 in the Washington Navy Yard, often referred to as the “Lundahl Hilton.” It was, according to McCone, a “rags-to-riches” situation. The 200,000 square feet of floor space meant that hundreds of more workers could be added. The building had large elevators, air conditioning, and good security. Most of all, it was the national center that Lundahl had envisioned almost ten years earlier. Most people in the building worked for the CIA – the people who typed letters, drove courier trucks, ran the computes and library searches, and produced he graphics. 5
But the photo interpreters came from the CIA, DIA, Army, Navy, Air Force, and other organizations. An Air Force interpreter who studied photos of Soviet silos might ride the elevator with a CIA interpreter who pored over photos of Chinese nuclear facilities and a Navy representative whose safe was filled with the latest photography of Soviet submarines.
Of course, the environment at the Washington Navy Yard, itself located in a rundown area of Washington, was far from luxurious. And working in a building whose windows, for security reasons, were bricked up certainly could be claustrophobic. But at least NPIC personnel were located in a larger facility with some amenities.
Even before the first KH-9 mission, NPIC officials, including director Arthur Lundahl and senior manager Dino Brugioni, realized that…
FROM DOUG HORNE’S INSIDE THE ASSASSINATIONS RECORDS REVIEW BOARD
Chapter 14 – The Zapruder Film Mystery
The NPIC Revelations of Dino Brugioni in 2009
Peter Janney was in the right place at the right time, for his father, Frederick Wistar Morris Janney, had worked for the CIA for many years, and had known Dino Brugioni. Therefore, when Peter contacted Brugioni and introduced himself as “Fred Janney’s son,” he was able to immediately establish a rapport with Dino based on this history, and it really paid off. Peter and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate that Dino Brugioni was not only still alive in 2009, but that his memory was still so good at the age of about 88, and that he was so patient and accommodating with Peter’s many questions about his involvement with the Zapruder film. Dino Brugioni was the Chief of the NPIC Information Branch, and worked directly for the Director of NPIC, Arthur Lundahl, from 1954 until Lundahl retired in 1973.
Arthur Lundahl, as Dino Brugioni explained to Peter Janney, was the western world’s foremost photoanalyst during those two decades. And anytime that Mr. Lundahl needed a briefing board prepared, it was Dino Brugioni, working with NPIC’s photo-interpreters and graphics department, who oversaw its preparation, and the preparation of the associated notes that Lundahl would use to brief Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, for example. Dino Brugioni was so closely involved with the briefing boards prepared for President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis that he was able to author an excellent and captivating book about the role of NPIC in that crucial Cold War episode, called Eyeball to Eyeball. Dino Brugioni, therefore, is the ultimate, insider source for what was going on at NPIC during the 1950s and 1960s. He possesses unimpeachable credentials.
It was the combination of Dino’s unimpeachable credentials and good memory that made what he had to say about his Zapruder film experience at NPIC the weekend of the assassination so important. For Dino Brugioni clarified for Peter, after repeated and persistent questioning, that the event he participated in actually commenced on Saturday evening, November 23rd (rather than Sunday, November 24, as he had incorrectly estimated for David Wrone in 2003); that it involved the original 8 mm film—not a copy—and that it did not involve either Homer McMahon, or Ben Hunter, or Captain Sands, but an entirely different cast of characters. Furthermore, Dino examined photographs Peter Janney had made at Archives II of the 4 surviving briefing board panels made from the photos developed by Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter, and Brugioni stated categorically that the four panels in flat # 90A in the JFK Records Collection are not the briefing boards he produced while on duty at NPIC from late
Saturday evening, November 23rd, through early Sunday morning, November 24th, 1963.
I will first recount the details of what Dino Brugioni relayed to Peter Janney in the seven lengthy interviews during the first half of 2009, and then I will discuss the differences between the “Brugioni” event (Event I) and the “McMahon” event (Event II), and discuss what these differences imply about the true chain-of-custody of the Zapruder film the weekend of the assassination.
Peter Janney first interviewed Dino Brugioni on January 30th, 2009, after reading my interview reports of McMahon and Hunter in Murder in Dealey Plaza. Author and researcher Dick Russell then assisted Peter Janney in establishing contact with me, and Peter and I worked together on a set of extensive follow-on questions that Peter would ask Dino in future interviews. We were vitally interested in ascertaining whether Dino Brugioni had participated in the same event as McMahon and Hunter, or in a different event at NPIC that weekend. In the way of preparation, Peter also flew to Washington, D.C. and examined and photographed both the original NPIC briefing notes, and the 4 surviving briefing board panels (both in flat # 90A) at Archives II, so that he could ask Dino whether those materials looked familiar to him. Janney also obtained an audio recording of my second interview of Homer McMahon, the only one of my three interviews of McMahon that I had been allowed to record. Peter Janney then conducted six additional interviews of Dino Brugioni on February 12th, 13th, 14th, March 6th, May 5th, and June 27th of 2009. In addition to the 7 interviews (which Janney recorded), Dino also called Peter a couple of times and left recorded phone messages in response to follow-on questions.
Here is a summary of the information gleaned from Peter Janney’s 7 recorded interviews, and the two phone messages left for him by Dino Brugioni:
Timing of the event: In the final analysis, Dino was of the very firm opinion that the event at NPIC which he supervised, as NPIC duty officer the weekend of the assassination, began on Saturday night, November 23rd, and ended early Sunday morning, November 24th. In his first interview with Peter, Dino referred to the event as occurring the night of the assassination, but in subsequent interviews, as Dino refreshed his recollection, he became adamant that it commenced the next night—a day after the assassination. The event began about 10 PM in the evening, when Dino personally met two Secret Service agents at the entrance to the NPIC, and ended at about 6 or 7 AM the next morning when Brugioni’s boss, Art Lundahl (the Director of NPIC), arrived and the briefing boards which Brugioni and the NPIC staff had created were presented to Lundahl, along with the briefing notes Brugioni had prepared. Lundahl then took both sets of briefing boards to the office of CIA Director John McCone, along with the briefing notes Brugioni had prepared for him; briefed the DCI; and then returned to NPIC later Sunday morning, November 24th, and thanked everyone for their efforts the previous night, telling them that his briefing of McCone had gone well. Brugioni told Janney that the two Secret Service agents who had delivered the film to NPIC had departed with the film early Sunday morning, as soon as the last frames from the home movie had been enlarged and the briefing boards had been completed.
When Peter Janney challenged Brugioni by telling Dino that he had apparently given author David Wrone an estimate of Sunday, November 24th as the day the event commenced, Dino said, “No, I don’t think so,” and said that he no longer believed the event commenced on Sunday evening because he had a recollection of trying (unsuccessfully) to attend President Kennedy’s funeral on Monday, and in his
memory the end of the NPIC event—turning over the two very large briefing boards to Lundahl, along with the briefing notes—did not occur on the same day that he tried to attend JFK’s funeral. In
summary, then, during the first interview with Janney, Brugioni thought the NPIC event had occurred the same evening as the assassination, but during the subsequent six interviews, he definitively ruled this out and expressed the firm and unwavering opinion that the event he participated in began at about 10 PM on Saturday, November 23rd, and ended at about dawn on Sunday, November 24th.
Attendees: Brugioni said that DCI John McCone was notified sometime Saturday by the Secret Service that photographic support would be needed; McCone notified Art Lundahl, NPIC’s director; and Lundahl in turn called Brugioni because Dino was the duty officer that weekend. In his capacity as duty officer, Brugioni then called NPIC’s number one photogrammatrist, Ralph Pearse, as well as Bill Banfield, the management official in charge of the photographic lab facilities. Brugioni told Janney that Bill Banfield ordered in 3 or 4 photo technicians (who worked on the home movie to enlarge individual frames), and 2 or 3 people from the graphics department (who actually assembled the briefing boards in the graphics department, on the second floor, one floor above the photo lab). In the four follow-on interviews, Janney repeatedly and specifically questioned Dino about whether either a Captain Sands, or Ben Hunter, had been present that night. Brugioni consistently said that he was personally acquainted with both people, and that neither Captain Sands15 nor Ben Hunter was present at the NPIC event he presided over. Two Secret Service agents delivered the home movie of the assassination to NPIC, and the agent who was “in charge” made the decisions about which frames to magnify and create prints from. Dino told Peter Janney that at the end of the night, the Secret Service wanted a list of everyone who had been present at NPIC; he also said that he placed the names of the two Secret Service agents in the briefing notes he prepared for Art Lundahl that night, but that he could not remember now, in 2009, what their names were.
Film format and characteristics: Dino was adamant with Peter Janney, as he had been with David Wrone, that the film delivered to NPIC for processing by the Secret Service was an 8 mm home movie, and he recalled this clearly and without any doubt whatsoever because Bill Banfield had to awaken the owner of the CIA’s favorite commercial photo outlet (Fuller and d’Albert), and ask him to to open his downtown shop, so that Banfield could purchase an 8 mm home movie projector. While Banfield was procuring the 8 mm projector in downtown Washington D.C. in the dead of night, Brugioni, Pearse, and the two Secret Service agents were examining individual frames of the film on a light table with a stereomicroscope. About midnight, when Banfield returned with the 8 mm home movie projector, the film was viewed at least 4 or 5 times, and at different speeds, by the two Secret Service agents, Brugioni (the duty officer), Pearse (the lead photogrammatrist), and Banfield (the production supervisor). Dino told Peter Janney, just as he had told David Wrone, that it was a “white glove operation” all the way, and whereas Wrone did not mention in his account whether or not Brugioni believed he had the original film, Dino made clear to Janney that he did believe it was the original film. He said: “Everything pointed toward it being the original,” and when Janney wisely asked Brugioni if he recalled whether Dino said that Captain Pierre Sands, 15 U.S. Navy, was the Deputy Director of NPIC, which Peter Janney subsequently confirmed on the internet. Sands’ one-page bio states that Pierre N. Sands was born on April 16, 1921, and died on May 26, 2004. He served in the Navy from May 1939-June 1973, and was placed in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Photographic Center after serving at NPIC. His biography on the internet identifies him as a member of the Presidential briefing staff during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
there were images between the sprocket holes (which are visible on today’s extant ‘original’ film but not on the ‘first generation’ copies), Dino paused and then responded: “I’m almost sure there were images between the sprocket holes.” During a follow-on interview when Janney tested Dino’s firmness of opinion about whether the film was the original or not, Brugioni said definitively: “I’m sure it was.” Dino said one of the factors that reinforced his impression that the film was the original was how nervous the two Secret Service agents were about how the film was handled by the NPIC staff—they repeatedly expressed concern that the film not be torn or damaged in the projector, or in the enlarging equipment. When repeatedly asked by Janney whether he was told where the film had been developed, or flown in from, Brugioni consistently said that no mention was made of where the film was developed, one way or another. Product produced: Brugioni told Janney that while the Secret Service agents made the decisions about which frames to reproduce, there was never any discussion by them of specific frames in which shots occurred, or of how many shots were fired at the motorcade. He did recall that most of their attention was centered around the action just prior to the limousine going behind the road sign, while it was behind the sign, and after it emerged from behind the sign. He said that the lead Secret Service agent had the demeanor of a lawyer who was preparing a case. Brugioni said that a maximum of 20 prints were made from individual Zapruder frames using NPIC’s state of the art enlarger; when Dino viewed
the photos Peter Janney had taken of the four surviving briefing board panels in the JFK Records Collection, he said: “We didn’t make this many photos,” and furthermore, said: “These are not the briefing boards we made that night.” Dino never wavered in his opinion about this—the four briefing board panels in the Archives today were not created at the event he participated in. Brugioni clearly recalled that at the NPIC event he presided over, at least two photos were made of each Zapruder frame that was enlarged, and only two briefing board sets (not the three sets that apparently resulted from the Homer McMahon event) were created. Dino consistently told Janney that the briefing boards NPIC created for Director John McCone and the Secret Service consisted of two panels each; that each panel was three feet high and three feet wide; and that the two panels in each set were joined together by a vertical hinge in the middle, so that the resulting six-foot long board could be folded in half for easy transportation. Brugioni said that there were two items of information posted underneath each photo on the briefing boards he created, and that one of these two items of information was the individual frame number. The phrases such as “7 frames missing,” for example, and the number of seconds that had elapsed between frames that appear on the 4 panels in the Archives today, were not placed on the
briefing boards he created. Furthermore, he indicated that the graphic design format of the 4 panels in the Archives today is markedly different from those he created the night of the event he was involved in. He also said that the Secret Service was vitally interested in timing how many seconds occurred between various frames, and that Ralph Pearse informed them, to their surprise and dismay, that this would be a useless procedure because the Bell and Howell movie camera (that they told him had taken the movie) was a spring-wound camera, with a constantly varying operating speed, and that while he could certainly time the number of seconds between various frames if they so desired, that in his view it was an unscientific and useless procedure which would provide bad data, and lead to false conclusions, or words to that effect. Nevertheless, at the request of the two Secret Service agents, Ralph Pearse dutifully used a stopwatch to time the number of seconds between various frames of interest to their Secret Service customers. Dino Brugioni said that he placed a strong caveat about the limited, or suspect, usefulness of this timing data in the briefing notes he prepared for Art Lundahl. Brugioni’s most vivid recollection of the Zapruder film was “…of JFK’s brains flying through the air.” He did not
use the term ‘head explosion,’ but rather referred to apparent exit debris seen on the film the night he viewed it. Dino had no other specific recollections about content during the 2009 interviews. Dino Brugioni identifies the “Hawkeye Plant:” Peter Janney eventually explained to Dino, well into the interview process, Homer McMahon’s recollections that the film brought to him the weekend of the assassination had come from a CIA lab in Rochester, and gingerly asked Brugioni whether he ever heard of such a place. Dino readily replied that he not only had personal knowledge of such a place, having visited it, but named it for us: he called it the “Hawkeye Plant.” In considerable detail, Dino described how it was a true “clean facility” where all of the technicians had to wear special clothing, special head coverings, and sticky shoes to avoid contaminating photographic products with dust and lint. When Janney asked Dino what this lab’s capabilities were, Brugioni said with wonderment in his voice: “They had the capability to do almost anything” with any film product—except that by implication, they must
not have had a 10 x 20 x 40 state-of-the art enlarger at the “Hawkeye Plant”such as NPIC possessed, and probably were not in the business of making briefing boards, either. Peter asked Brugioni whether they could deal with motion picture film there, and Dino said: “Yes.” Peter Janney then asked the ‘big question,’ which was: Did the “Hawkeye Plant” have an optical printer, specifically an Oxberry printer, installed? Dino’s answer was: “They had everything there.” [Oxberry manufactured the top of the line optical printer in that era, and it was a customized Oxberry optical printer that Moses Weitzman had used to blow up the extant Zapruder film from 8 mm directly to 35 mm in 1968. This response was both encouraging for my developing hypothesis, and also frustratingly vague. I made a mental note when I heard this response to make sure that if a FOIA request was ever filed with the CIA over Zapruder film issues surrounding the NPIC events, that the suit would have to ask whether optical printers used in the duplicating of motion picture films had been installed at the “Hawkeye plant” in 1963.]
Subsequent return of one briefing board: Some undefined amount of time later, Brugioni stated that the CIA returned one of the six foot long, three feet wide briefing boards (with the hinge in the middle) to NPIC, but without the briefing notes that Dino had originally prepared for Lundahl. NPIC Director Art Lundahl told him to keep it wrapped up in paper and secured in a locked cabinet, and to show it to no one without his (Lundahl’s) express, personal permission. [The disposition of the other briefing board was not divulged to Brugioni by Lundahl—but presumably, it was retained by the Secret Service, the customer who had driven the activity that night by requesting NPIC support.]
Meanwhile, Art Lundahl retired in 1973 and was replaced as Director of NPIC by Mr. John J. Hicks, who served as Director from June of 1973-February of 1978. Dino recalled that sometime in 1975, in response to Congressional inquiries (from Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana) about CIA domestic activities, he took the six foot long hinged briefing board to John Hicks, the new Director, and that Hicks became extremely agitated and upset that the CIA had this product. (The only time that Brugioni became agitated and raised his voice during the several hours of interviews with Peter Janney was when he would recall the degree to which Hicks became emotionally upset by the existence of the briefing board Brugioni showed him, and on those occasions, Brugioni would raise his own voice as he vividly recalled Hicks’ exact words and emotional state on that occasion.) Hicks told Brugioni in 1975: “Pack ‘em up right now and get them over to the [CIA] Director’s office,” according to one version; and in another recounting, Brugioni said Hicks shouted: “Get those damn things over to the Director’s office; we’re not supposed to have ‘em!” Dino had the surviving six foot long briefing board wrapped in paper and sent by courier over to the office of CIA Director William Colby. When Peter Janney mailed copies of the 9 pages of documents the Rockefeller Commission obtained from NPIC to Dino, Brugioni expressed both surprise and
irritation that in his internal, handwritten memo of May 13, 1975 forwarding the textual materials up the chain of command, Hicks made no mention of the six foot long briefing board that Dino had sent to the Director’s office. Dino wrote about the NPIC Zapruder event in an NPIC history: In the final telephone interview with Peter Janney, Dino Brugioni revealed that he had written a short synopsis of the Zapruder film event in an official history of the National Photographic Interpretation Center—a several hundred page long, highly classified document—which he had prepared while serving as a paid consultant for the CIA sometime during the decade of the 1980s, following his retirement in 1981. This information angered me, for it meant that the CIA had withheld this information from the Assassination Records Review Board, in violation of the JFK Act, during the period 1994-1998. If the CIA had been an “honest broker,” it would have offered up the pertinent page(s) from the NPIC history related to the Zapruder film for review and release by the ARRB. [Clearly, this excerpt from the highly classified NPIC official history would have to be included in any future FOIA request filed over Zapruder film material.] Dino Brugioni and his colleagues definitely worked on the Zapruder film, and not on a different home movie of the assassination: Peter Janney sent Dino Brugioni photographs he had taken of the four surviving briefing board panels that are in the JFK Records Collection at the National Archives.
While Brugioni definitively stated that his work group did not make those particular briefing boards, he verified that the image content in the four surviving panels was from the same film that his group worked on. Since the prints affixed to the four briefing board panels at NARA are definitely from the Zapruder film, we know that Brugioni also worked on the Zapruder film, and not on a film taken from the opposite side of Dealey Plaza (e.g., the Nix film, Muchmore film, or the film purportedly taken by Beverly Oliver). His recollection of specific image content in individual frames was not sharp, but it was good enough for him to verify that he had worked on the same home movie, with the limousine passing behind, and temporarily obscured by, a road sign. (Any film taken from the other side of Dealey Plaza would not have shown a road sign blocking the view of the limousine.) Like McMahon, Brugioni stated that no one called the home movie “the Zapruder film” the night his group created its two briefing boards, but he was absolutely certain that the film shot by Zapruder was the same film his team had made enlargements from throughout late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, November 23-24, 1963.
The data table below summarizes, in an easy-to-read format, the differences between the two Zapruder film events at NPIC the weekend of the assassination, involving Dino Brugioni and Homer McMahon
NPIC Event I: Beginning Saturday Night, November 23rd (and continuing all night long until early AM Sunday)
NPIC Event II: Beginning Sunday Night, November 24th (and
continuing all night long until early AM Monday)
Persons Involved NPIC personnel: Dino Brugioni, Ralph Pearse, and
Bill Banfield; plus some photo and graphics technicians. (Dino was duty officer that weekend and was told to go in by Art Lundahl, the Director of NPIC, who in turn had been alerted by CIA Director John McCone.) Two Secret Service Agents transported a film which Dino believed to be the camera original home movie. Dino categorically stated that neither Captain Sands nor Ben Hunter was present.
NPIC personnel: Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter, and a “Captain Sands.” One Secret Service Agent who identified himself as “Bill Smith” brought the film from a CIA classified film lab at Kodak headquarters in Rochester; he said it was the original and had been flown directly from Dallas to Rochester, where it had been developed at the classified film lab. Neither McMahon nor Hunter recalled anyone else being present.
Type of Film Viewed Original film—an 8 mm slit film. (An 8 mm projector had
to be purchased to view it.)
Original film—a 16 mm wide, “double 8” film that had not yet been slit. McMahon
recalled other image content on the second half of the film (likely the Z “home movie”).
Viewed on existing 16 mm projection equipment.
Briefing Boards Created Two (2) briefing boards six feet wide, with a hinge in the middle. Lundahl took them both to DCI McCone Sunday AM with briefing notes. One
was later returned to Brugioni, and then given to Hicks in 1975. Hicks was very upset
that it existed, and withheld this info from the Rockefeller Commission. Three (3) briefing board sets consisting of 4 panels each.
The notes associated with the NPIC activity were given to the Rockefeller Commission
in 1975 by the CIA. The notes were released through FOIA in 1978, and the four panels later, in 1993, by the HRG. Dino Brugioni has stated “these are not what I created.”
Implications of the Brugioni interviews: In the final two interviews with Brugioni, Dino came to accept the fact that there had been another event at NPIC that weekend with the Zapruder film involving different personnel, and that knowledge of this had been intentionally kept from him by officials at NPIC. Brugioni had initially been resisted this possibility, since it was his assumption that as duty officer that weekend, he would naturally have known about any and all activity at NPIC during the two days following JFK’s death. [As it turned out, however, the duty officer stayed at home, not at building 213 at the Navy Yard, and only went in to the facility if he was called on the telephone and ordered to “go in” by higher authority; so a compartmentalized operation was entirely possible without Dino knowing about it, providing different employees were involved. This appears to have been what happened that weekend.] But once shown the photos of a different set of briefing boards, and after acknowledging that neither Captain Sands nor Ben Hunter was present at the activity he was involved in, Dino finally faced up to the inevitable conclusion: he had been kept out of the loop — excluded from important additional activity with the Zapruder film that weekend at NPIC. To say that this was something he was not accustomed to would be an understatement. Normally, from 1954 until he retired in 1981, Dino Brugioni would have supervised and approved the creation of all briefing boards, and would have personally prepared the notes used to brief a President, Cabinet official, or Agency director.
Dino seemed a bit nonplused following his March interview, and more than a little miffed at both Mr. Hicks, and his former agency, who together had failed to report the existence of the one surviving large briefing board to the Rockefeller Commission. His frame of mind seemed a bit like a loyal spouse who has just learned that his life partner had been unfaithful, and engaged in a dalliance with someone else.
Analysis: The implications here are unavoidable: the Secret Service had a list of attendees from Event I, commencing late Saturday, November 23rd and ending early Sunday morning, November 24th. They clearly wanted to have NPIC perform additional Zapruder film activity the next night (commencing late on Sunday, November 24th and ending early Monday morning, November 25th), but did not want any of the players who worked on the film Saturday night to know about it, so they ensured that a completely different cast of characters was assembled the second night. Apparently, Captain Sands (an O-6, a senior officer in the Navy), using his authority as NPIC’s Deputy Director, called in Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter to perform the work required by “Bill Smith” of the Secret Service. Then “Bill Smith” forbade both Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter from discussing their work with the Zapruder film with any of their NPIC colleagues. Did either John McCone or Art Lundahl know about it? I don’t know. The obvious question is: Why conduct a compartmentalized operation with the Zapruder film at NPIC the weekend of the assassination? The probable answer is right in front of us, if we will only believe what we have been told by Dino Brugioni and Homer McMahon. Dino Brugioni likely prepared briefing boards for John McCone and the Secret Service from the true camera original, unaltered 8 mm Zapruder film on Saturday, November 23rd. Homer McMahon likely prepared blowups of Zapruder frames from a 16 mm wide, unslit, altered Zapruder film, which had been created in an optical printer at what Dino Brugioni called the “Hawkeye Plant” at Kodak headquarters in Rochester, New York. After all, this is where the Secret Service agent masquerading as “Bill Smith” told him the film had been developed, and the agent was not likely to be mistaken, since he had personally couriered it from that location. Homer McMahon, the Head of the Color Lab at NPIC, throughout all three of his interviews with me, consistently recalled that he had worked with an original film that was an unslit, 16 mm wide, double 8 home movie—and that it came from Rochester, where it had been developed at the CIA’s Kodak-run photo lab which Dino referred to as the “Hawkeye Plant.”
Dino Brugioni used a code name for that CIA-funded lab in Rochester very, very similar to the term
Homer McMahon had employed in 1997, which I am unable to reveal due to the security oath I took when I went to work for the ARRB. But there is no doubt in my mind, based on the remarkable similarity between the names for the lab employed by both McMahon and Brugioni, that they are describing the same facility.
Consider this: if the Secret Service had returned a Zapruder film to NPIC Sunday night that had the same image content as the film viewed Saturday night, there would have been no need for a compartmentalized operation at NPIC. And since the film brought to NPIC Sunday night (for McMahon and Hunter to work on) was a 16 mm wide, unslit double 8 ‘original,’ and not an 8 mm wide, slit original film as seen the night previously by Brugioni, this constitutes proof — providing McMahon is correct in his recollections—that the Secret Service delivered to him a reconstructed, new ‘original,’an altered version of the Zapruder film masquerading as a camera original film.
I believe that both films were assessed by their handlers as ‘originals’ for good reason—one was a true 8 mm, slit, camera original movie, and the other was a professionally altered film, created in an optical printer to mimic an unslit ‘original’ in every way. It is extremely unlikely that either the Secret Service or the CIA would have countenanced creating individual frame enlargements for briefing boards from a copy film, because blowing up a small 8 mm film frame to 40 times its original size for the making of internegatives would have required the highest quality product available, otherwise the resulting internegatives and prints would have been even further degraded by contrast buildup resulting from generational loss of quality. This was even more true for the altered film from Rochester processed on Sunday night at NPIC: because it was in reality a copy masquerading as an original (and not a true camera original), it was imperative from the standpoint of image resolution that the new ‘master’ created at Rochester be the item whose frames were magnified for the second, sanitized set of briefing boards.
I shall close this section by once again drawing attention to a key paragraph in David Wrone’s book, in which he attempted to discredit the arguments in favor of alteration.
First, I would ask the reader to reexamine the data table above that summarizes the specifics of Zapruder film Event I and Zapruder film Event II at NPIC the weekend of the assassination; then, please read the passage below, quoted verbatim from pages 125-126 of The Zapruder Film—Reframing JFK’s Assassination:
Regarding the CIA, no scrap of paper, legitimate witness, or indirect source of any merit places the agency or any of its surrogates indirectly or directly in connection with the film on November 22 or the following two days. The documents that came out of the Belin-Rockefeller investigation of the CIA show that the agency did not begin its study of the movie until after photographs had appeared in LIFE magazine. This thoroughly documented lack of official interest in the Zapruder film drives a stake in the claims of alterationists that Federal agencies immediately after the investigation stole or borrowed the film to whisk it away to Washington or any other city or country for alteration.
Every significant statement in the above paragraph can now be shown to be incorrect, based upon the Homer McMahon/Ben Hunter interviews in 1997, and the extensive series of Dino Brugioni interviews in 2009. Let’s list the reasons, shall we?
• Homer McMahon (the Head of the NPIC Color Lab) and Dino Brugioni (NPIC’s Chie
Information Officer for over two decades) are definitely “legitimate witnesses;”
• The Brugioni and McMahon interviews place the CIA (through NPIC) in direct contact
with the Zapruder film on the two days immediately following November 22nd;
• The CIA’s surrogate, the “Hawkeye Plant” at Rochester, was placed in direct connection with the Zapruder film by “Bill Smith” of the Secret Service on Sunday, November 24th, before the funeral of President Kennedy;
• Any quick perusal of the Homer McMahon interview of July 14, 1997 (which David
Wrone referenced in his book—via endnote 36 on page 127) reveals that the 9 pages of
documents given to the Rockefeller Commission by the CIA in 1975 are not all
associated with the same event, and that while the shot and timing analysis was not
performed the weekend of the assassination, the making of internegatives and prints
from the film did occur on the weekend of the assassination.
• The scheduling of two compartmentalized film processing operations of the Zapruder
film at NPIC the very weekend of the assassination hardly constitutes “lack of official interest.” In fact, it is evidence of the precise opposite: an extremely high level of official interest. David Wrone was aware of the McMahon/Hunter interviews when he completed his manuscript; we know this because he referred to them with an endnote. Are we to believe that he cited something he did not read? Of course not. Wrone intentionally withheld the contents of the McMahon interviews from his book, and while I earlier inferred a reason, only he can explain why. Did Dino Brugioni also tell David Wrone that he handled the original Zapruder film the weekend of the assassination (just as he told Peter Janney)? We will never know. Wrone only describes what Dino handled as “a roll of 8 mm film, ” without showing the slightest curiosity about whether it was the original or a copy. If Dino did describe what he handled (during his interview with Wrone in May of 2003) as “the original,” Wrone chose not to believe it. That is his prerogative as an author and an analyst, but if so, he also chose not to report it. And that is another matter altogether.
In my view Wrone’s strident tone of dismissal in regard to any and all ideas of the so-called ‘alterationists’ in the JFK research community is an overreach, and a disservice to the scholarly discourse that we should encourage within our ranks. He has now paid the price for having a closed mind that was unwilling to fairly consider new evidence about the Zapruder film, which he clearly indicates in his book that he was aware of. He would have served both his reputation, and the cause of JFK assassination research, much better if he had honestly acknowledged the possible implications of the McMahon and Brugioni recollections, while disagreeing with them because he found the weight of other evidence more persuasive. But that’s not what he did.
What the Two NPIC Events the Weekend of the Assassination Tell Us About the True Provenance of the Zapruder Film
The obvious implications of the two NPIC Zapruder film events prior to the President’s funeral are noted below, in what I shall call a working hypothesis, explaining what I believe likely transpired with the Zapruder film the weekend of the assassination:
• First, the camera original Zapruder film really was slit in Dallas at the Kodak
processing plant after the three ‘first day copies’ were developed the evening of the
assassination, just as the Kodak employees told Rollie Zavada when he interviewed
them for his authenticity study. On Saturday morning, November 23rd, after the Secret
Service in Washington, D.C. viewed the first day copy (that had been placed on a
commercial airplane in Dallas and sent to Washington, D.C. by Max Phillips late on
Friday evening), they no doubt realized an immediate need for the original film, so that briefing boards could be made from the clearest possible image frames. [No one would send a copy of an 8 mm film to NPIC to make briefing boards from—one would obtain and send the original film.]
• Second, Richard Stolley’s recollection that the original film went to LIFE’s printing plant in Chicago on Saturday, November 23rd, for immediate processing, obviously requires reexamination. That is to say, the film may indeed have been flown to Chicago, but instead of processing it immediately for use in its November 29th edition, LIFE officials in Chicago may have willingly (or unwillingly) cooperated with Federal officials (of either the CIA or the Secret Service) by diverting the original film on to Washington, D.C., based upon a firm promise that they would get their property back as soon as possible, within one or two days. In my view, if “national security” had been invoked with someone like C.D. Jackson, along with a firm promise that LIFE would get its property back in short order (after it was used to help make enlargements for briefing boards), LIFE would have readily agreed. (Secret Service officials involved in the assassination plot, and their CIA allies in the nation’s capital, would have had all day to view the first day copy of the film they had received early Saturday morning, to discuss what had to be done to sanitize the film, and would have had ample time to grease the skids with C. D. Jackson, probably using the CIA as an intermediary.) Clearly, the original film was either: (1) diverted after it arrived in Chicago (unbeknownst to Stolley) and sent on to Washington, D.C., arriving at NPIC at about 10 PM per Dino Brugioni’s best recollection; or (2) it was simply seized in Dallas late Saturday afternoon (with LIFE’s quiet cooperation) after Zapruder sold it the first time (for the initial sum of $ 50,000.00), and then sent directly to Washington from Dallas, arriving at NPIC at 10 PM, with Stolley’s quiet complicity. (If the second possibility above occurred, it means that Stolley was fibbing in 1973 when he wrote that he put the
film on a plane to Chicago on Saturday afternoon.) My own sense is that the film was
probably diverted after arrival in Chicago, and flown immediately to Washington. After all, there are no written receipts indicating the film actually arrived at LIFE’s Chicago printing plant on Saturday—all we have is Stolley’s personal recollection that he put it on a plane to Chicago. Furthermore, the film could have been intercepted at the airport
in Chicago, and flown directly to Washington, without ever going to the printing plant on Saturday—all without Stolley’s knowledge. This is most likely what happened.
• Third, the Secret Service and the CIA, obviously working together on the project, must have rushed the 8 mm camera original film from Washington, D.C. to the “Hawkeye
Plant” in Rochester by air, immediately after Bill Banfield’s photo technicians had run off the last enlargement prints for the McCone briefing boards, just prior to dawn on Sunday morning. The CIA’s Kodak-staffed lab in Rochester would have had most of the day (probably about 9 or 10 hours), using an optical printer such as the Oxberry commonly used by Hollywood’s special effects wizards, to remove whatever was
objectionable in the film—most likely, the car stop seen by over 50 witnesses in Dealey Plaza, and the exit debris which would inevitably have been seen in the film leaving the rear of President Kennedy’s head—and to add to the film whatever was desired, such as a large, painted-on exit wound generally consistent with the enlarged, altered head wound depicted in the autopsy photos which were developed the day before on Saturday, November 23rd by Robert Knudsen at NPC Anacostia. Captain Sands, a Naval Officer who was the Deputy Director at NPIC, was apparently instrumental to those altering the film in setting up a compartmentalized operation at NPIC, in which workers who had not participated in the events which commenced Saturday night (with the unaltered, true camera original film) would be used to create briefing boards from the now-sanitized, altered film. The delivery of an unslit, 16 mm wide double 8 film to Homer McMahon, well after dark on Sunday night, is proof that he received an alteration, and not the same film processed the night before (which was a slit 8 mm film). Furthermore, if the film worked on by McMahon and Hunter had been the same film worked on the night before, there would have been no need for a compartmentalized operation, and the same duty crew that worked on Saturday night could have been called in again. The fact that the same work crew was not used on Sunday night reveals that a covert operation was afoot.
• Fourth, the three black-and-white, 16 mm unslit versions of the Zapruder film
discovered in 2000 after the LMH Company’s film holdings were transferred to the
Sixth Floor Museum, and which both David Wrone and Richard Trask have written
about in their books on the Zapruder film, were almost certainly made from the altered film after it was manufactured at the “Hawkeye Plant” in Rochester. They would have been run off from the new ‘master’ that Homer McMahon worked with from Sunday night into Monday morning in Washington, but would have been duplicated before the altered film left Rochester for Washington, D.C. In this way, the three black and white dupes could have been sent to the Chicago plant for use in its November 29th issue Sunday evening, at the same time the new 16 mm unslit ‘master’ which was masquerading as ‘the original film’ was being flown to Washington. In this scenario, the three black-and-white copies would precisely match the film in the Archives today, but would not constitute proof of its authenticity.
• Fifth, three newly minted ‘first generation’ copies must have been struck from the new ‘original’ in Rochester before the altered ‘original’ was flown to Washington, D.C. Sunday evening for the preparation of the sanitized briefing boards at NPIC. Quite
simply stated, if you are going to alter the original film, you have to manufacture altered copies as well. [We shall examine the qualities of the three extant ‘first generation’ copies later in this chapter to see whether this part of the hypothesis holds up.]
• Sixth, switches obviously must have been made, as soon as possible, with all three ‘first day copies’ (which had been made on Friday in Dallas). The FBI, as well, must have been complicit in this early switchout, since it supposedly made all of its subsequent second generation copies from the ‘first day copy’ loaned to it by the Secret Service on Saturday, November 23rd. Although the FBI may have viewed a first day copy of the true original film following its arrival in Washington, all second generation FBI copies in existence today would have been struck after the first day copy was switched out with its replacement. A Secret Service ‘first generation’ copy was returned to Dallas by the FBI on Tuesday, November 26th, so the switch could have been made early Monday morning at FBI headquarters, and the FBI’s extant second generation film copies could all have been duplicated from the newly manufactured (altered) ‘first generation’ copy on Monday, November 25th, during the day. [We shall examine the record of what the FBI viewed the weekend of the assassination later in this chapter, and will see whether this part of the hypothesis holds up.] Switching out the first day copy held by the Secret
Service in Washington would not have presented any problems, since under this
hypothesis the Secret Service and CIA were obviously partners in the forgery exercise. Abraham Zapruder’s authentic first day copy could easily have been switched out after it was sent to LIFE late on Monday, after Zapruder’s contract had been renegotiated.
• Seventh, it is highly likely—a virtual certainty, in my view—that the additional sum of $ 100,000.00 that LIFE agreed to pay to Abraham Zapruder on Monday, November 25th in a new contract was in reality “hush money,” doled out to him, rather revealingly, piecemeal—in amounts of only $ 25,000.00 at the beginning of each year, through the end of LBJ’s first term in office—in exchange for his silence about the fact that the government had altered the image content of his film. Even though LIFE obtained legal ownership of the original and all three first generation copies in its new contract on Monday, if the magazine (or the government, during an investigation or inquest) was ever to display the film as a motion picture, then Zapruder would undoubtedly notice that the image content had changed, so in my view his silence had to be purchased, and that was accomplished with the new contract.
• Eighth, and finally, only so much in a film can be altered—there are also things that cannot be altered. It is my belief that the most damaging information in the film to the lone assassin hypothesis—the brief car stop on Elm Street in which the President was clearly killed by a crossfire, by multiple hits to the head from both the front and the rear, and the frames of exit debris leaving the rear of his skull—were removed at Rochester when the new ‘master’ was created. In addition, wounds were painted onto his head with special effects work which somewhat (but not precisely) resembled the damage recorded in the autopsy photos after the clandestine surgery at Bethesda Naval hospital.
However, it is my contention that while the technicians at Rochester could remove the
violent forward motion of the President’s head (seen in the unaltered film by both Dan
Rather and the FBI’s Cartha DeLoach), which occurred during the brief car stop, and
could remove the car stop itself, they could not remove the violent backward motion of the President’s head and body, to the left rear, which was caused by the two nearsimultaneous shots to his head from the right front. Because the infamous ‘headsnap’ back-and-to-the-left could not be removed from the film, the film had to be suppressed as a motion picture, and not shown to the public. This was surely known by everyone at Rochester by late Sunday afternoon or early Sunday evening, which explains why the CIA’s media asset, C.D. Jackson, instructed Richard Stolley on Sunday to begin renegotiating the contract with Zapruder. (The official approval of LIFE’s board the next day would have been a mere formality.) The reader will recall that the new contract gave Time, Inc. the motion picture rights which it did not acquire in the first contract on Saturday, and that even after paying the considerable additional monetary amount of $ 100,000.00 for the motion picture rights, that Time, Inc. never commercially exhibited the Zapruder film as a motion picture. Suppression was therefore surely its true motive.
I ask the reader to keep this working hypothesis in mind throughout the remainder of this chapter as we:
(1) explore what various witnesses recall seeing in the film projected for them the weekend of the assassination; (2) explore what appear to be discrepancies between characteristics of the extant film in the Archives today and test film shot by Rollie Zavada; (3) compare the anticipated appearance vs. the actual appearance today of the 3 ‘first generation’ copies; and (4) compare what is shown in the extant Zapruder film with the condition of President Kennedy’s head as observed at Parkland hospital, and with what people actually saw happen on Elm Street as the motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza.