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ZapruderTube & #Oswald would have reshaped scene: Column

Assassination investigation would be different with new technology.

by David Hoffman

USA Today - A Gannett CompanyWho killed JFK? With the media all atwitter about the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago, it's hard not to wonder: What if there had been social media back then?

Within seconds of the shooting, there would have been thousands of tweets: @citizensrising #President shot, OMG! @nidham #shots fired in #DealeyPlaza. @rogersjane #JFK shot #Jackie covered in blood. Within a minute, retweets would number in the millions, reverberating across the world. Real time YouTube video would go viral, capturing lurid eyewitness views.

The forensic evidence would be thousands of times greater than the single Zapruder film provided, as virtually every other person in Dealey Plaza that day would have been shooting photos or video. Indeed, it is likely that many of the videos would have captured the Texas School Book Depository building, the "grassy knoll" and other possible vantage points at the very moment the first shots were fired.

Facial-recognition & Oswald

Within days, as in the Boston Marathon bombing, facial recognition software would have allowed police to identify almost everyone at the scene. Ubiquitous cameras would have recorded movements before and after the shooting. Conspiracy theorists wouldn't have to wait for years to publish their accounts. The blogosphere would be instantly abuzz. Investigative journalists would probe every lead and, after Lee Harvey Oswald's arrest, they would piece together his every association, his network of contacts and his inevitable postings on Facebook.

The evidence available to the Warren Commission would be exponentially greater than 50 years ago. NSA intercepts of Oswald's e-mail correspondence and phone conversations would map his life in detail. So would subpoenaed records of his movements as tracked through his cellphone, airline data and online purchases. Psychologists would probe his reading habits, the films he watched online, the food he bought, the news he followed and the people he liked for clues to his motivation.

NSA supersnooping

Much of what intelligence agencies would tell the Warren Commission would remain hidden from the rest of us. But presumably, they would know what Oswald was doing in Minsk, New Orleans and in Mexico City; what patterns of social networks connected Jack Ruby to the Mafia and the Mafia to Fidel Castro; and what ties there were to the Bay of Pigs veterans and the FBI and CIA operatives lurking around Oswald.

Perhaps the original autopsy report on the president would still have been destroyed, but it would be much more likely that the entire medical procedure would have been captured on video. The "single bullet theory" would have been scrutinized with advanced computer simulations and might have revealed contradictions in the official record.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations Report concluded there was a "probable conspiracy" in JFK's assassination, but it was unable to determine its nature or participants. Subsequent investigations disagreed. Even with all the resources available to our networked society, that confusion could remain.

We might still not know who killed President Kennedy, unless perhaps Edward Snowden would tell us.

David Hoffman, founder ofInternews, is author of Citizens Rising, on the emergence of media as an actor in global affairs, not just an observer.

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David Hoffman discusses how anyone with a cell phone can reach vast audiences across the globe.