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Warren Commission Report: Page x« Previous | Next »

(Foreword)

The Commission and its powers

After Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby, it was no longer possible to arrive at the complete story of the assassination through normal judicial procedures during a trial of the alleged assassin. Alternative means for instituting a complete investigation were widely discussed. Federal and State officials conferred on the possibility of initiating a court of inquiry before a State magistrate in Texas. An investigation by the grand jury of Dallas County also was considered. As speculation about the existence of a foreign or domestic conspiracy became widespread, committees in both Houses of Congress weighed the desirability of congressional hearings to discover all the facts relating to the assassination.


By his order of November 29 establishing the Commission, President Johnson sought to avoid parallel investigations and to concentrate fact-finding in a body having the broadest national mandate. As Chairman of the Commission, President Johnson selected Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, former Governor and attorney general of the State of California. From the U.S. Senate, he chose Richard B. Russell, Democratic Senator from Georgia and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Governor of, and county attorney in, the State of Georgia, and John Sherman Cooper, Republican Senator from Kentucky, former county and circuit judge, State of Kentucky, and U.S. Ambassador to India. Two members of the Commission were drawn from the U.S. House of Representatives: Hale Boggs, Democratic U.S. Representative from Louisiana and majority whip, and Gerald R. Ford, Republican, U.S. Representative from Michigan and chairman of the House Republican Conference. From private life, President Johnson selected two lawyers by profession, both of whom have served in the administrations of Democratic and Republican Presidents: Allen W. Dulles, former Director of Central Intelligence, and John J. McCloy, former President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, former U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, and during World War II, the Assistant Secretary of War.


From its first meeting on December 5, 1963, the Commission viewed the Executive order as an unequivocal Presidential mandate to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. Because of the numerous rumors and theories, the Commission concluded that the public interest in insuring that the truth was ascertained could not be met by merely accepting the reports or the analyses of Federal or State agencies. Not only were the premises and conclusions of those reports critically reassessed, but all assertions or rumors relating to a possible conspiracy, or the complicity of others than Oswald, which have come to the attention of the Commission, were investigated.


On December 13, 1963, Congress enacted Senate Joint Resolution 137 (Public Law 88-202) empowering the Commission to issue subpoenas requiring the testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence relating to any matter under its investigation. In addition, the

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