Sunday, September 30, 2012

Open Letter to Ferriero

Open Letter to the National Archivist of the USA

To: David Ferriero – Archivist of the United States
From: Historical Researchers
Re: JFK Assassination Records

As the Archivist of the United States you are responsible for the preservation of our country’s records, which are our national treasures – our “family jewels,” and the documentation of our nation’s history since its founding.

Conducting an open and honest government is said to be one of the hallmarks of the current administration, and the founding fathers recognized that a democracy requires an informed electorate, one that has all the information and facts necessary to make decisions that effect the directions that the country will take in the future.

Over the course of our entire history no single event has had such a catastrophic impact on our national political system than the assassination of President Kennedy, mainly because of the unresolved nature of the case in both legal and moral terms, and the continued withholding of relevant records from the public.  

Polls have consistently shown that the American public’s confidence in their government began to decline shortly after the release of the Warren Report and has continued to decline ever since. That confidence will never recover until all of the government records on the assassination are released to the public.

When the Warren Commission concluded its work, Chief Justice Earl Warren, in response to a question as to when all of its records would be released, responded by saying, “Not in your lifetime.”

Then when the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) disbanded, its records were sealed for a half-century and its second chief counsel said that he could live with the judgment of historians in fifty years.

Well the American people refused to accept those decisions, and thanks to Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK,” a national consensus forced Congress to pass the JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992, which was reluctantly signed into law by President Bush that October, twenty years ago this month.

That law created the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB), which despite releasing over 4 million pages of records, failed to locate the unedited Air Force One radio transmission tapes, the documents of Office of Naval Intelligence director Admiral Rufus Taylor and numerous other records that remain among the government’s holdings but are not included in the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the NARA.

Since the agencies and departments of government knew that the ARRB was a temporary agency, they delayed responding to requests for records, and intentionally kept relevant records from being reviewed or becoming part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection.

Even among those records that were to be included, the CIA has withheld over a thousand documents that have never been properly reviewed. No one even knows how many pages they contain. Other clearly relevant records were excluded, such as the Kefauver Committee records and the Bay of Pigs report, because they were “deemed not relevant” or, like the Joannidies/DRE documents, are considered “operational” records. These are claimed to be exempted from release and are now part of a major FOIA court case which should be resolved in the public’s interest and the that of the CIA.

Some agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Secret Service, intentionally destroyed relevant records to keep them from being released to the public, and those individuals responsible for the destruction of these historic documents have never been properly questioned or reprimanded for their actions.

Why haven’t you, as the Archivist of the United States, requested Congress to hold mandated oversight hearings on the JFK Act, which they haven’t done in fifteen years, and do its duty and properly oversee the law, which has never been full enforced?

Why doesn’t the NARA, as it has on the anniversaries of the Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crisis, release the remaining JFK records and conduct a special program on the anniversary of the assassination?

These records were created by public servants working for the government of the United States and don’t belong to those who created them, the agencies they worked for or the Kennedy family. They belong to the people of the United States - they are a record of our history and we want them now, not in 2017, or 2029 or never.

This is not about supporting or debunking conspiracy theories. Before a national debate on the assassination can even begin, before the anniversary of Kennedy’s death can be properly honored, before we can put this tragedy behind us and move on, we must have all the facts. All the cards must be on the table, the entire truth must be publicly known and no records should be kept secret for reasons of "national security,” or to keep agencies, administrators and bureaucrats from being embarrassed.

Fifty years ago there might have been good reasons to keep some of these records secret but now, it is matter of our national security that they be released to the public.

The provisions of the JFK Assassination Records Act require the full public release of unredacted copies of all related records immediately, when the reason for postponing release in each case is no longer current or relevant, and no later than 2013, with the certification of the Archivist that all such files have been released in full. There is no provision requiring that any file not be released before 2013, it is at the discretion and review of the Archivist to continue review and release until completed.

President Obama created an Executive Order requiring declassification without review of all government records classified for more than 25 years. A subsequent law required a review to be sure they did not contain information regarding nuclear weapons before release, which has slowed the process. A National Declassification Center was created to expedite this massive release of files, well over 400 million records. Yet, the individual agencies and the NARA continue to block release of JFK assassination files classified now for almost 50 years under some exemption. President Obama's intention was to require that no file be classified indefinitely, and your decision to postpone release of these files frustrates that order and the intent of the JFK Act and the Assassination Records Review Board.

What we ask for is not unreasonable.

We want the NARA to identify and count the number of JFK assassination documents still being withheld, how many pages they contain and the reasons for their being withheld.

We want the NARA to include all the remaining withheld JFK assassination-related records, as defined in the JFK Records Act in the National Declassification Review process, as originally intended, and release them in 2013, the 50th anniversary year of the assassination.

We want the NARA to rigorously assume the role previously performed by the ARRB, as the law requires, and continue to fulfill the remaining work until it is done.

Since a copy of the Air Force One tapes were recently discovered, the allegedly destroyed Secret Service documents were found among the effects of a former agent, and the records of the first chief counsel of the HSCA were not obtained by the ARRB, we want the NARA to resume the search for all relevant JFK assassination records, including federal, state, local, foreign and personal files, secure them and make them a part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection, open to the public.

We want you, Mr. Ferriero, as the Archivist of the United States, to do your sworn duty and fulfill the requirements of the JFK Act so you can, as the law requires, report to Congress that the last JFK assassination record has been released to the public.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,

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