Issue #2 New Discoveries in the Recently Released
Two Big Lies: Files are Open, Case is Closed
Reprinted from Prologue, Newsletter of the Committee for an Open Archives Vol. 1, #4, November, 1993.
"The decision to classify government information is a decision, particularly in this post-Cold War era, which should not be taken lightly. In fact I believe the presumption should be against classification, rebutted only when serious national security interests are at stake."
Rep. Dan Glickman, Chair, House Select Committee on Intelligence
On the same day that the voluminous new files reached the Archives, the national media and press carried two false messages simultaneously. First, we were told that all the files in the case had been opened, implying that our government was responding in a timely fashion to release whatever they held on this unsolved murder and its aftermath to the public. Was it a coincidence that this occurred on exactly the same day that those same media splashed the second message Everywhere, based on a new book by Gerald Posner, that the case has now been resolved, and that Oswald acted alone to kill the President. The files are open, the case is closed, so why worry about it or read single document? Let's look at both these falsehoods.
It has been over a year since the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act was signed into law by President Clinton. Although all Government agencies were required to identify and organize some 2-3 million pages of assassination-related records for transmittal to the Archives "as soon as practicable," and the first records were expected to arrive within 90 days after enactment, the earliest materials (except for the CIA's "pre-assassination file" on Oswald) did not arrive until the 300-day deadline for ALL materials to be transmitted.
Of these nearly 800,000 pages, the majority were withheld on request of the source agencies, including 160,000 pages of CIA records and hundreds of thousands of pages of FBI documents from House Select Committee on Assassination files. Many new documents are only partially released, and the "redactions" on others do not match earlier versions released, a potential violation of the Act.
Only the National Archives has attempted to meet its deadlines to date, creating a standard identification/finding aid, computerizing the results, and making the records accessible.
Most of the records recently made public had already been released through FOIA requests by diligent researchers, or as part of large agency releases [e.g. FBI, CIA] due to declassification procedures. Many records still have not seen the light of day, and several of the agencies who voluntarily met with Archives staff to go over methods for identification and tagging of records have submitted none to date, specifically the various military intelligence agencies among others.
There is, to date, still no review board or any other agency insuring compliance with the law, or review records for release, even though the law expected Board actions to begin within six months, and a report to be sent to Congress and the President within one year. The Review board is also required to post a review of all records transmitted within 90 days after it has formed. COA has called repeatedly for Congressional oversight hearings or action on these delays.
Both Presidents, Bush and Clinton bear responsibility for the delay. Shortly after the professional historical, legal and archival associations submitted their nominees to Bush he left office, taking the papers with him, and refusing access to anyone. The 90-day deadline passed on January 25th, with no nominations to the Senate from either administration. With prodding, Clinton's staff began the process again, receiving names from the associations and the research community. Clinton has 90 days to submit his choices to the Senate, but the first two did not arrive until early September. Two more names were sent on October 25th, and a fifth arrived November 4th, nine months late, and over a year after the law was enacted
Once three names had been submitted, a clock began ticking. Thirty legislative days (days when Congress is in session) after October 25th, Senate hearings on the nominees must begin. Unless they happen before the November break, this will most likely take until January, 1994. Another sixty legislative days may pass before final nominations are voted by the whole Senate. We may not see an acting Board until early April, at which time they have another month and a half to appoint an Executive Director and begin their work. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee* will handle hearings on the Board nominations.
We have been told by Congressional sources that the last nominee, Henry Graff, would be "the President's man,' and is scheduled to be chosen as the Chairman, and to "run the show." If a nominee should fail to be approved, the President has an additional 30 legislative days to appoint someone else. Comments or complaints about current or future appointments should be directed to Tom Shea, Office of President's Personnel, Old Executive Office Building, Room 4026, Washington, D.C. 20500, or call (202) 456-2825.
Under the law, the Review Board will terminate activities in October, 1994, barely half a year after it is established. A majority of Congress can vote to extend the activity for another year, but we have already lost valuable time. The process of reviewing millions of documents being challenged for postponement will tax the Review Board and the public. Congress should be pressed to move now to extend the potential life of the Board by another year immediately, since 3 years may still be too short a time. Once the Board is formed, it is legally empowered to create advisory panels, and independent researchers must be represented there.
On the Hill
Representative Conyers has scheduled oversight hearings by the Legislation and National Security Subcommittee* on November 17th. COA has submitted written testimony to Conyers and consulted with the Assassination Archives Research Committee, who will testify on these issues. Executive branch oversight of this process should be demanded, perhaps from Vice President Al Gore's office.
Apparently without prompting, the House Select Intelligence Committee,* headed by Rep. DeConcini, held hearings on CIA classification policy and procedures. CIA head, James Woolsey said his agency plans to declassify "80-90% of the remaining 10,000 pages" collected on the assassination of John F. Kennedy by October 31, "doing away with the painstaking, line-by-line review " of documents on events more than 30 years ago. These changes will also speed release of documents on Vietnam in the early 1960s, the Korean War, and other covert operations in Iran, Italy, France, Laos and Tibet.*For a full list of committee members and contact information, send SASE to COA.
At the Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which runs all government archives and facilities, posted notice in the October 25th Federal Register that they will be proposing regulations before next October concerning implementation of the assassination records law (PL 102-526), and "procedures to be followed by NARA in responding to requests for access to records contained in the ...Assassination Record ... Collection. These must appear in advance in the Register for public comment, and may affect researchers. They were scheduled for some time in October, but Archives staff confirmed that they will not be issued any time before November 22, due to the exhaustive demands of researchers and media representatives wanting to see documents before the 30th anniversary. Mary Roan, Access Staff Director can be reached at (202)501-5959 for more information.
Since the current batch of documents sent to the Archives came from the CIA files, including much material that originated with other agencies, COA fears that this allowed one more sanitization, and that the source agency should be asked to make further releases as well. Otherwise, we have no way of knowing whether a previously secret document was withheld or redacted solely for the CIA's purposes. In addition, we do not know if unauthentic documents, disinformation or the so-called "substitute documents" envisioned in the law are included.
Finally, we have the added clincher that a superficial and facile work by Gerald Posner got front page coverage on everything from the Washington Post and New York Times to U.S. News and World Report, coverage no critical work could ever hope to command. Was this merely good public relations work by his publishers at Random House (no pun intended), or part of a concerted campaign, planned out in CIA and FBI documents long ago, to discredit the critics and dampen public interest in the case? Intelligence control of media "assets" has increased, along with the concentration of their corporate ownership, since the time of the assassination.
One has to ask why Posner's book is so much more newsworthy than the dozens of new and updated book releases by critics since the film JFK renewed the question. Are press people merely glad to be let off the hook for 30 years of bad journalism by the revelation that Oswald was guilty all along, or is there a deeper Politic that fears renewed interest, and even study, by the coming generation? Those of us who follow the case know that it is far from "closed," and that major breakthroughs have been made in dozens of recent books, articles, and film and photographic analysis in the critical community. There are also many indications of conspiracy and cover-up, both medical and bureaucratic, in the newly released documents. The press is only interested if it points the finger at Oswald, at the KGB, or at least away from the U.S. intelligence agencies.
Posner, a hack who has written earlier works of falsehood about fascism, including Hitler's Children, and Mengele, The Last Nazi, somehow managed to both legally represent victimized twins of Dr. Mengele's experiments at Auschwitz, and have "exclusive" and unrestricted access to Mengele's family papers. His other works are fictional or factional exercises in anti-Communist ideology and KGB paranoia. His new book, Case Closed, covers the same ground as the Warren Commission's shabby psycho-history of Oswald, as if not being a nice guy proves he killed the President. His other arguments, which the compliant press claim to "demolish" every claim by the critics, merely rehash refuted "evidence", set up straw-men to knock over, or miss our criticisms completely. The only thing firmly closed is Posner's mind.
So, let's get it right now. The case is open, the files are closed!
Reprinted from Prologue, Newsletter of the Committee for an Open Archives Vol. 1, #4, November, 1993.