If I told you what I really know, it would be very dangerous to the country. Our whole political system could be disrupted.
J. Edgar Hoover made that remark over lunch in 1964, to Bill Byars, Jr., son of a Texas oilman. The Warren Report had not come out yet, but Hoover knew what would be in it. He knew the report would not disrupt the political system or be dangerous to the country. He knew because his agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was the primary – indeed the sole – investigative resource available to the Warren Commission’s staff. The staff could interview people on their own, but otherwise they had to rely on the FBI. Hoover and his people knew what was supposed to be in the report.
Here’s something to think about. Who besides a person with something to hide thinks dishonesty is less disruptive than the truth? Without a doubt, the truth disrupts and dishonesty lets traitors and criminals sail along as if their misdeeds had never occurred. Without a doubt, the truth appears dangerous to people who have a lot to hide. Without a doubt, truth – formidable truth – is least dangerous in the long run for those who are innocent.
When I began to reconsider Kennedy’s assassination, I agreed with Hoover. I didn’t agree that dishonesty is the best policy, but I did think that the truth about Kennedy’s death, revealed right after it occurred, might have brought down our government. Now I see, fifty years later, that the consequences of dishonesty during that period were substantially worse than anything the truth might have brought in its train. The government might have sailed along on the ocean of falsehood in the Warren Report, but the country did not.
The country and its republican institutions slowly sank during that time. It took a decisive turn away from democracy in 1963, and did not recover. Not even Reagan’s rhetoric and hope changed its direction. No matter how hard the truth about Dallas might have been, the consequences that flowed from dishonesty were much worse. With the truth, we had a chance to save our republic. Without it – well, we know what happened without it.