I Helped Cover Up the JFK Assassination Conspiracy

Joel Bellman

Now it can be told: I helped cover up the JFK assassination conspiracy.

When the first President Bush signed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act on October 26,1992, it called on the feds to release all known remaining files within 25 years, unless the president personally ordered them to remain under seal. The National Archives has fully released nearly 90% of them, while 11% have been partially released, and only 1% remain under seal.

So, in that spirit of that mostly full disclosure, here’s my story.

In the early 1960s, my former boss Ed Edelman was a lawyer in Washington, DC. One of the many young idealists drawn to public service during the Kennedy administration, Ed helped staff a congressional subcommittee chaired by Rep. James Roosevelt, son of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and then became a staff attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, one of the FDR’s many New Deal agencies.

It was a heady time, and you can easily imagine the excitement Ed must have felt in carrying forward FDR’s legacy through President Kennedy’s “New Frontier” program. Harder, however, to imagine the shattering blow dealt by Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. Ed returned to Los Angeles the following year, and began his own career in elective office as a Los Angeles City Councilman in 1965.

In Washington, Ed had become friends with David W. Belin, a lawyer whom Chief Justice Earl Warren had appointed to staff the Warren Commission, which President Lyndon Johnson established to investigate the Kennedy assassination. As knowledgeable as anyone about the testimony, evidence, and facts in the case, Belin strongly supported the Warren Report’s conclusion that JFK had been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.

Fast forward to 1991. Edelman was by then a Los Angeles County Supervisor, while Belin had returned to his Iowa home, where he become a co-owner of the Tribune in Ames, along with other regional publications, and quietly practicing law.

That December, Oliver Stone’s “JFK” was Warner Bros.’ big Christmas release, adapted in part from a book by former New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, whose wild and discredited conspiracy theories Stone ardently embraced. More than just a box office success, Stone’s film fueled the public’s lingering doubts about the official Warren Report conclusion. Adding insult to injury, Stone cast Garrison himself in a cameo role playing Earl Warren. And further compounding the felony, the Warner Bros. marketing department mailed out to public school districts 13,000 so-called “study guides” for history classes, promoting both the movie and its conspiracy theories in the guise of educational materials.

It was all too much for Belin. He called Ed, and urged him to do something. So Ed summoned me to his office, and told me to write a Board motion formally condemning Warner Bros. and calling on LAUSD to reject Hollywood’s efforts to falsify history.

On April 29, 1992, months after the guides had been mailed (and probably discarded), the Board passed Ed’s motion. Hilariously, a Warner Bros. marketing executive accused Ed of timing the motion to blunt the impact of Stone’s concurrent congressional testimony. Ed, who had no way of knowing that Stone would be testifying at the same time the Board was considering his motion, commented mildly, “I only wish I was that smart.”

The local press had a little fun with it, but other events soon intervened. The following day the Rodney King verdicts came down and the city was engulfed in civil disorder.

End of story. Almost.

As it turns out, the JFK assassination files recently released (thanks, admittedly, to legislation prompted by Stone’s film) do, indeed, reveal a conspiracy by the FBI and the CIA—to cover up their own incompetence in mishandling the intelligence they had about the intentions of the dangerous and unstable Lee Harvey Oswald. Information which, had it been properly acted upon, might have prevented Kennedy’s assassination. The Warren Report conclusion still stands.

Meanwhile, while Stone has always defended “JFK” as just a dramatic movie, he initially published a 600-page “companion” volume purporting to document its claims. His 2012 Showtime documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States” (a collaboration with history professor Peter Kuznick) included a segment strongly hinting at a JFK conspiracy, and when I was recently visited one of Washington’s most popular bookstores, there was Stone’s and Kuznick’s companion volume to that series sharing shelf space in the history section.

David Belin died in 1999, and Ed Edelman died in 2016. But I’m still here, and still proud of my tiny role in unsuccessfully trying to “cover up” Oliver Stone’s bogus history of this particular national tragedy.


Joel Bellman

Joel Bellman worked in journalism and local government in Los Angeles for 35 years. He now teaches and writes on politics and pop culture. He can be contacted at jbellman@ca.rr.com

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