This coming December 15 is the newest deadline for the disclosure of the CIA’s 50-year-old records relating to the Kennedy assassination. In a recent article, I predicted that as the deadline approaches, the CIA will seek yet another extension of time for secrecy and that President Biden will deferentially grant it. The CIA will undoubtedly once again claim that the disclosure of its 50-year-old records would threaten “national security,” maybe by making the United States vulnerable to a communist takeover. The CIA might also make the same claim it did when it last successfully sought an extension of time for secrecy — that Covid continues to prevent it from examining the 50-year-old records to see if disclosure would present a danger to “national security.”
Regardless, one thing is crystal clear to me: The CIA’s records that remain to be released will not include its records relating to its taking control over the Abraham Zapruder film on the weekend of the assassination.
I detail the Zapruder film saga in my newest book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story. The story is a long one and so I won’t go into all the details here.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Zapruder film, it was a film taken of the Kennedy assassination. It was taken by a Dallas businessman named Abraham Zapruder who had gone out to Dealey Plaza to film the motorcade in which President Kennedy was traveling.
The day after the assassination, Zapruder sold the print rights to his film to LIFE magazine. On that day, the film was flown to Chicago, where LIFE’s printing operations were located.
In the late 2000s — more than 40 years after the assassination — it came out that the film was actually diverted to the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) in Washington, D.C., which was operated by the CIA. By this time, of course, the mainstream media had bought into the official lone-nut theory of the assassination and was loathe to examine any new developments in the case.
This long-secret information came out thanks to a CIA official named Dino Brugioni, who worked at NPIC. Brugioni was recognized as the most renowned photographic interpretation expert in the world. You can read his biographical sketch at Wikipedia here. To my knowledge, no one has ever questioned Brugioni’s integrity, professionalism, and competence.
In the late 2000s, Brugioni related a surprising story to two assassination researchers, Douglas Horne and Peter Janney. Horne had served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. That was the agency that was charged with enforcing the JFK Records Act, which forced the CIA and other federal agencies to disclose their long-secret assassination-related records. He is also author of a watershed book in the Kennedy assassination entitled Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, which I highly recommend reading. Janney is the author of another excellent book that I highly recommend, Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace.
Brugioni told Horne and Janney that on Saturday night — November 23, 1963, which was the day after the assassination — two Secret Service agents brought the Zapruder film to him at NPIC. That meant, of course, that the official narrative that had been promoted for more than 40 years had been false the entire time. The film wasn’t sent to LIFE’s printing plant. After being taken from Dallas to Chicago, it was diverted to Washington.
Brugioni’s team was charged with making enlargements of selected frames from the film and then posting them on briefing boards. As they were doing that through the wee hours of Sunday morning, the two Secret Service agents left with the film.
The film was then taken to a super-secret CIA operation called “Hawkeyeworks” that was located in Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, New York. As I detail in my book, the only reason they would have taken the film there was to produce a super-high-quality altered copy of it. As Brugioni related to Horne and Janney, they could do “anything” at Hawkeyeworks.
That altered copy was then shipped on Sunday, November 24, from Rochester back to NPIC in Washington. On Sunday night, a brand new team was summoned to NPIC to do the same thing the Saturday-night team had done — make enlargements of frames from the film and post them on briefing boards. The difference, however, was a big one: The Sunday-night team was using the altered copy to conduct its operation. It’s that altered copy that became the new Zapruder original that people are familiar with today.
It’s worth noting that both operations were highly classified and highly compartmentalized. The Saturday-night team never knew about the Sunday-night operation. And the Sunday-night team never knew about the Saturday-night operation. In fact, the first time that Brugioni learned that there was a Sunday-night operation was during his conversations with Horne and Janney.
Horne and Janney showed Brugioni the extant Zapruder film — that is, the altered copy that became the official Zapruder film. On seeing the film, Brugioni said, no, that was not the version of the film he saw on Saturday night.
If all this was innocent, it goes without saying that the CIA would have kept records of its operations relating to the Zapruder film at NPIC on Saturday and Sunday and its operations in Rochester on Sunday. Such records would reveal who logged in and who participated in the operations as well as the time, nature, and purpose of the operations. They would have turned over those records during the term of the ARRB during the 1990s. After all, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, it would be difficult to find a better example of an assassination record than a film of the assassination.
Yet, during the entire term of the ARRB, the CIA turned over no such records to the ARRB. Moreover, the CIA didn’t even disclose the Saturday-night operation to the ARRB, even though the ARRB learned about the Sunday-night operation from another CIA official named Homer McMahon. It would be another 10 years after the term of the ARRB that Brugionio would relate his story to Horne and Janney.
There is, of course, the possibility that the CIA’s records relating to its Zapruder film operations at NPIC and Rochester are included in the thousands of records that the CIA is still trying to keep secret. But I don’t think that’s likely. If the operations had been innocent, the CIA would have disclosed the records to the ARRB back in the 1990s. If the operations were criminal in nature, which is almost certainly the case, they would have never kept any records or they would have destroyed them, just as they have with other CIA criminal operations, such as MKULTRA and torture.