BBN, Raytheon and a fresh JFK conspiracy theory

A follow-up to a post from Tuesday

Because lots of good stuff goes unnoticed in comment strings ...

Earlier this week we learned that Raytheon, long one of the nation's most powerful defense contractors, is acquiring venerable BBN Technologies, a networking pioneer perhaps most famous for its role in designing the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet.

In writing about the deal, I included this footnote way done at the very end of the item: "History buffs will tell you that BBN is also known for having conducted acoustical analysis in 1978 for the House Select Committee charged with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 15 years earlier."

A reader who identified himself as V12Merlin offered this provocative tidbit in response:

"One of the BBN engineers who worked on the Kennedy acoustic analysis thing was a close friend of mine, from my own Cambridge days. He told me at the time that the team was ordered by someone high up NOT to publish what they actually found."

Now I've been a Kennedy assassination buff since reading a table-top version of The Warren Report in my grandparents' living room back in high school, but I'm neither willing nor able to vouch for the veracity of what V12Merlin's friend told V12Merlin  some 30 years ago. However, another reader who identified himself as Joe Kraska, a former BBN employee living in San Diego, was in no mood to just let the comment slide. Writes Kraska of the alleged cover-up:

"Because, you know, as we know, the noodle-backboned folks working at BBN, having found the real origin of the assassination of an American president would have all the ethical prowess of a peanut, and keep mum quivering in their boots because a Mysterious Evil Power (tm) ordered them not to tell the truth. We know now at least, how much faith you have in the fidelity of your fellow men. That's just sad."

And that's telling him, all right.

(Update: Not that I really want to venture too close to this rabbit hole, but I did find a Wikipedia entry that would seem to indicate BBN was a rather unlikely cover-up suspect. In fact, it was the company's analysis that led the House Select Committee to conclude that shots were fired at the presidential motorcade from both the Texas School Book Depository and the infamous grassy knoll. That conclusion, much like most anything else regarding the assassination, has been long disputed. ... Those less fearful of rabbit holes are free to read the entire entry, but here's the top of it:

In December 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had prepared a draft of its final report which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone as the assassin. However, after hearing testimony regarding the Dictabelt recording, they quickly changed their findings and concluded a second gunman had fired a fourth shot at Kennedy (it was claimed that a fourth shot could be heard on the Dictabelt). G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the HSCA, later said, "If the acoustics come out that we made a mistake somewhere, I think that would end it." Despite serious criticism of the scientific evidence and the HSCA's conclusions, speculation regarding the Dictabelt and the possibility of a second gunman has persisted.

The Dictabelt recording does not contain audible gunshots, but investigators compared "impulse patterns" (i.e., suspected gunshots and associated echos) on the Dictabelt to 1978 test recordings of Carcano rifles fired in Dealey Plaza from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and from a stockade fence on the grassy knoll forward and to the right of the presidential limousine. Based on this, the acoustics firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman concluded that impulse patterns 1,2, and 4 were shots fired from the Depository, and that there was a 50% chance that impulse pattern 3 was a shot originating from the grassy knoll. Acoustics analysts Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy of Queens College, after reviewing the BBN data, concluded the probability was 95%.

So if, as was intimated by the friend of V12Merlin, there really was an order from on high that BBN technicians "not publish what they actually found," well, those squelched findings must have been pretty darn spectacular.)

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent Buzzblog items. And, if you'd like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here's where to sign up.

2009's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries.

Only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women.

T-Mobile to gouge customers $1.50 a month for paper bills.

Tenant's tweet about mold prompts $50,000 libel suit by obnoxious landlord.

Apple take legal heel off throat of wiki operator.

Why would Microsoft patent a 'butt hinge with butt straps'?

Want a city job? Fork over your usernames and passwords. gets an "A" from fellow fact-checkers.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.