WASHINGTON - Former President Ford secretly advised the FBI that two of his fellow members on the Warren Commission doubted the FBI's conclusion that John F. Kennedy was shot from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository in Dallas, according to newly released records from Ford's FBI files.
Ford, still a congressman at the time, also told a senior FBI official about internal panel disputes over hiring staff, Chief Justice Earl Warren's timetable for completing the final report on the assassination and what panel members said about the FBI.
In turn, Assistant FBI Director Cartha 'Deke' DeLoach confidentially advised Ford of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's position on panel disputes; discussed where leaks were coming from; and, with Hoover's personal approval, loaned him a bureau briefcase with a lock so he could securely take the FBI report on the 1963 assassination with him on a ski trip.
The new details were included in 500 pages of the FBI's large file on Ford, released in part this past week in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act that The Associated Press and others made on the day Ford died in December 2006. The FBI intends to release additional documents about Ford in several batches, all with parts censored for law enforcement and privacy reasons.
That Ford served as the FBI's eyes and ears inside the commission has been known for years. Long ago, the government released a 1963 FBI memo that said Ford, then a Republican congressman from Michigan, had volunteered to keep the FBI informed about the panel's private deliberations, but only if that relationship remained confidential. The bureau agreed.
It was also well known Ford was an outspoken proponent of the bureau's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy acting alone.
A newly released memorandum provides more details about Ford's role as the FBI's informant. DeLoach wrote on Dec. 17, 1963, to outline what Ford told him in the congressman's office about the commission meeting the day before.
'Two members of the commission brought up the fact that they still were not convinced that the President had been shot from the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository,' DeLoach wrote. 'These members failed to understand the trajectory of the slugs that killed the President. He stated he felt this point would be discussed further but, of course, would represent no problem.'
There was no explanation of what Ford meant by 'no problem."
Warren Commission records released in 1997 revealed that in the final report Ford changed the staff's original description of one of Kennedy's wounds. Ford said then he only made the description more precise. Skeptics said Ford's wording falsely made the wound seem higher on the body to make the panel's conclusion that one bullet hit both Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally more plausible.
DeLoach also wrote that Ford wanted to take the FBI's confidential assassination report on a ski vacation but had no way to do so 'in complete safety.' DeLoach recommended lending Ford a bureau briefcase with a lock. The bottom of the memo contains a handwritten 'OK' over Hoover's distinctive initial 'H,' which he regularly used in commenting on memos.