Opinion | How to Botch an Assassination Investigation

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, shocked the nation. It brought justifiable scrutiny on the law enforcement agencies that should have prevented it as well as those that investigated it. Historians, journalists and filmmakers continue to speculate on what happened. Sixty years later, government records are still being declassified and released. The Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, fired three rifle shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building is widely, though not uniformly, accepted.

One lesson law enforcement learned from Dallas and its aftermath is how not to investigate an assassination. The Kennedy investigation devolved into a fiasco. No one was in charge. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, the Dallas police and sheriff offices all argued with each other. These agencies and others battled over Oswald, the rifle and other evidence, witnesses and, most important, jurisdiction. It was worse than unprofessional—it was deadly.

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