Chapter 13:
The Scent of a Woman, Part II

Between the Signal and the Noise
by Roger Feinman

The end of Sylvia Meagher’s dealings With Lifton

Sylvia Meagher last wrote to Lifton on July 19, 1970, continuing her low–key but relentless assault on his theory of Zapruder film alteration and imposters posing as Kellerman and Greer. Several weeks later, she went to Dallas for a visit with Mary Ferrell. A few days before her arrival on August 12, 1970, Lifton, apparently aware of the trip, reportedly phoned Mary Ferrell and asked her to be very guarded in discussing her own knowledge of his research activities with Meagher. (Meagher, Sylvia. Note for the record, August 25, 1970)

The two women, who had spoken by phone and corresponded, but never met before, warmed to each other and began to compare notes on their contacts with Lifton. Mary believed that Lifton was examining the mid–air turnaround of the “cabinet plane” over the Pacific Ocean after learning of the assassination. From their conversation and her own recollections of calls from Lifton, however, Meagher deduced that he was working on the autopsy and had deliberately tried to throw both of them off the track. (Meagher, Sylvia. Note for the record, August 25, 1970)

Lifton reportedly had told Ferrell that Liebeler had a trunk full of copies of classified documents that he took upon leaving the Warren Commission. He allegedly also claimed to her that he and his associates plied Liebeler with drink and women, copied his keys to the trunk, and gained access to the documents. (Meagher, Sylvia. Note for the record, August 25, 1970)

[Note: Today, Ferrell says she does not remember Lifton telling her the “trunk story”. (Author’s interview with Mary Ferrell, May 26, 1993) This rumor floated around the research community for many years, but may have been another invention to throw people off the track of what Lifton was working on. (Meagher had known that Liebeler formerly kept a small archive at his Vermont farm, and that Edward J. Epstein had obtained access, as Lifton reports in Chapter 4 of his book, so it was plausible that Liebeler now maintained this archive in Los Angeles.) She erroneously deduced from this “information” that Lifton had made his self–proclaimed sensational discovery regarding the autopsy among Liebeler’s papers. (Meagher, Sylvia. Note for the record, August 25, 1970) Noteworthy, on the other hand, is the pregnant language that Lifton uses in a footnote appearing at the beginning of Chapter 15, after his representation in the main text that Liebeler allowed him to make “detailed notes” of the 17–page “Liebeler Memorandum” that he kept in his office: “The Justice Department’s copy of Liebeler’s memorandum was made available to me under the Freedom of Information Act in September 1979. It is now a public document.” That is not quite the same as saying he did not obtain a different copy of the memorandum before 1979, when he was in the final stages of completing his manuscript.]

Among other early Warren Report critics, Sylvia Meagher, who seems to have been under the impression from the way Lifton represented himself that he was impecunious, had tried to help him by paying him for photocopies of numerous unpublished Warren Commission documents that he ordered in microfilm form from The National Archives. It bears mention that Mrs. Meagher was personally experienced in dealing with The Archives and could have ordered documents directly; in fact, she did amass an admirable collection of research materials in that manner. Lifton seemed, however, to be doing a good job, although how he managed to produce so many thousands of photocopies is unclear. Once, when Lifton sent her several Warren Commission staff memos totaling 400 pages, he wrote:

I’m throwing in filched folders and jiffy bags free; but then, everything is filched, so who knows. Anyway, its [sic] rumored that the CIA subsidizes the account of the xerox [sic] machine I use, but this is just a rumor and must not be repeated or I will soon be included with all those other agents.

Mary Ferrell was another of Lifton’s customers. Comparing notes between themselves and with other critics during their August 1970 visit in Dallas on the Commission documents they had purchased from Lifton, Ferrell and Meagher inferred (rightly or wrongly) that he was systematically withholding significant information from them. They received written advice which seemed to them to support this inference from one of Lifton’s disaffected associates in Los Angeles. (Meagher, Sylvia. Note for the record, August 25, 1970; Author’s interview with Mary Ferrell, May 26, 1993) Mrs. Ferrell now recalls, “Anything explosive in it he just held it out.” (Author’s interview with Mary Ferrell, May 26, 1993)

Lifton continued to write to Meagher after she returned to New York from her visit with Ferrell in Dallas (e.g., Lifton, David. Letter to Sylvia Meagher, September 18, 1970), but his letters went unanswered. He tried calling, but she hung up on him.

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