Documents just released about President John F. Kennedy's assassination have deepened the mystery about his wounds and show that FBI agents were secretly reprimanded by their director, J. Edgar Hoover, for their lack of surveillance of the presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
A report on the autopsy of the President's body reveals that one of the two purported examinations of his brain by doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital may have studied a brain belonging to someone else.
The report, and Hoover's strong criticism of his agents in Dallas, are part of the 400,000 pages compiled by the Assassinations Records Review Board now released by the National Archives. It was set up by Congress to collect and release material about Kennedy's death and ceased work last September.
The discrepancies about the brain examinations are set out in a report to the Board by its chief analyst, Mr Douglas Horne. He concludes that two separate brain examinations might have been conducted "contrary to the official record as it has been presented to the American people."
Three military pathologists have agreed that they conducted an autopsy of the entire body on November 22nd, 1963, soon after it was flown back from Dallas. But they have conflicting recollections about a later examination of the brain.
One of the doctors, J. Thornton Boswell, says that the brain was examined at the November 22nd autopsy and again on November 25th, the day of the burial. But Dr Pierre Finck said in a 1965 report based on earlier notes that he, Dr Boswell and Dr James Humes conducted an examination of the brain on November 29th and that photographs were taken by a Navy photographer.
Mr Horne in his report contends that the brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of the President's brain and show much less damage than he sustained when shot in Dallas. Mr Horne told the Washington Post that he was 90 to 95 per cent certain that the photographs were not of President Kennedy's brain.
"If they aren't, that can mean only one thing - that there has been a cover-up of the medical evidence." Mr Horne claims that the damage to the second brain reflected a shot from behind but the first brain reflected a shot from the front which the doctors in Dallas who tried to revive the President also believed. The Warren Commission said that he was shot from behind.
Mr Hoover's criticism of the FBI in Dallas is written in the margin of a report on an internal investigation of how the local agents failed to check up on Oswald although he was known to be a defector to the Soviet Union. He was not on the FBI's Security Index, which lists people considered threats to public officials or to national security.
One agent, James Hosty, who was assigned to Oswald said that he had not interviewed Oswald's Russian wife, Marina, because Oswald had been "drinking to excess and beat up his wife on several occasions. Hoover wrote "This is certainly an asinine excuse."
Hosty also explained that he had not interviewed Mrs Oswald nearer to the assassination because he did not want her to think she was "being harassed because of her immigrant status." Hoover commented "I just don't understand such solicitude".