The Weisberg Collection

While looking up some names from articles in Studies in Intelligence, I ran into another interesting on-line resource: the Harold Weisberg Archive, hosted at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. When a number of CIA names kept turning up at the Archive, I decided to take a look at it.  It turns out to be a huge collection, with some very interesting material.

Harold Weisberg was one of the many people who quickly became convinced, following the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963, that Lee Harvey Oswald might not have been the killer, and/or that the assassination might have involved more than one person.  Weisberg was apparently first off the mark in writing a book denouncing the Warren Commission’s report on the assassination.

His book, Whitewash, was published in March 1965, a remarkably fast 6 months after the Commission published the 26 volumes of evidence and testimony it collected.  At the same time, he began collecting a huge assortment of documents relating to the assassination, which now form the basis of the Archive site.

During the rest of the 1960s, Weisberg went on to write a whole “Whitewash” series, almost all self-published.  He was an enthusiastic participant in Jim Garrison’s investigation of the assassination, but later came to see Garrison as a fraud.  Moving on from Garrison, but not the assassination, Weisberg was an early advocate of using the Freedom of Information Act to get at restricted records, and the lawsuits he filed throughout the 70s and 80s make up a big part of the Archive.

Weisberg was considerably older than most (but not all) of the crowd looking into the assassination; he was 50 the year Kennedy was killed.  He thus came from a quite different background than the other writers on the assassination, such as Mark Lane and Edward Epstein, and it turns out that he had personal reasons to suspect government misconduct both in the assassination and in the investigation; he was fired from a State Department position in the late 1940s as a suspected Communist.

He also brought investigative skills and tactics to the JFK assassination which were honed in the 1930s, when he worked for the La Follette Committee investigating union busting activities, and in the 1940s, when he did free lance investigative writing for magazines such as Click and Picture.  Apparently he had a brief spell in the OSS as a Latin American analyst, which led to his State Department position, but I haven’t yet found the records for this part of the story.

In other ways, though, Weisberg seems to have been typical of the assassination buff. He was an inveterate newspaper clipper and letter writer, and these make up a huge part of the Archive. The newspaper clippings, in addition to assassination related material, focus on the CIA, Vietnam, and Watergate, which is why the Archive kept showing up in my searches.

The letters are often very cryptic to me, since my knowledge of the assassination is close to zero.  From what I do understand, Weisberg comes off as highly opinionated and irascible. His letters are full of blunt comments often aimed directly at his correspondents, who seem to have included most of the major assassination buffs.  His invective doesn’t have the cruel, multi-faceted edge of the “great masters of vituperation”, such as Baron Corvo, but if you’re looking for straight denunciation of hare-brained stupidity, he’s got it.  One thing you won’t find though; any admission of ever having been wrong himself.  Or maybe I just haven’t come to those letters yet.

Weisberg died in 2002. For several years before his death he had been negotiating with Hood College, located near his home in Frederick, Maryland, to donate his 60 (!) filing cabinets of assassination related material after his death.  The Archive website is proof that Hood did not just chuck everything in the library basement.

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