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The Record - September 1998

Lab Test on Kennedy Assassination Evidence

The National Archives and Records Administration will work with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board to arrange for the analysis in an FBI laboratory of a piece of evidence from the assassination of the former president.

The evidence item is Warren Commission Exhibit (CE) #567, which is the nose portion of a bullet from the limousine seat in which the President was riding and which consists of five fragments—one copper and lead fragment and four smaller pieces of possibly organic material. The larger fragment still has "fibrous/plant debris" adhering to it. The testing will be done on the fibrous debris, not the fragment itself, and on the four small pieces of possibly organic material. The purpose of the test will be to determine specifically the composition of the fibrous material and the small fragments.

Archivist of the United States John Carlin said that the Review Board and NARA had begun to look into the possibility of the testing two years ago after the Department of Justice brought the issue to the Board's attention.

"Although NARA initially was reluctant to engage in any testing that might alter an evidence item," Mr. Carlin said, "I was persuaded to the contrary by the Review Board's finding that the testing of the fiber was recommended by the Firearms Examination Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979. This recommendation was not in the published Final Report of the Committee and thus the testing was never done. I agree with the Board that conducting limited testing to complete this ‘unfinished business' is in the public interest."

The fibrous material may be from clothing the president was wearing, or the fiber may be from material in which the bullet was wrapped after the assassination, or the tests may be inconclusive. NARA chose the FBI laboratories for the analysis as the best equipped and most expertly staffed for the purpose. To assure objectivity, the Assassination Records Review Board will select one or more independent observers to verify the appropriateness of the procedure and to be present throughout the testing, each phase of which will be thoroughly documented.

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