Monday, October 20, 2014

AARC Bethesda Day 4 Sunday

SUNDAY - September 28, 2014 


Jesus said: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing that will not be known.” 

Thanks to David Kaiser for calling attention to that quote (Luke 8:17).

Although not as popular a subject – the final day’s theme focused on the records, probably the most important but popularly neglected part of the conference. 

Bill Simpich, who has been pouring over many of the released records and posting some of his analysis on line [See: State Secrets –] hit the nail on the head when he said that while the withheld records are important there have been so many records released we haven’t yet looked at them all – or “processed them,” as he put it.

There’s still plenty of unread documents in the Archives that await the intrepid young researcher to find some gems that have yet to be unearthed.

The prolific and insightful Lamar Waldron (“Legacy of Secrecy”) stayed on topic by doing his talk on “Withheld in Full,” and has generated some public interest in the still secret records, and his arguments must be made in order to get a Congressional hearing and oversight of the JFK Act.

As an example of how the NARA is just ignoring Congress and the law - According to the letter of the law – the JFK Act of 1992 – Congress directed the Archivist of the United States (AOTUS) himself to compile and publish a Finding Aide to the JFK Collection so those interested citizens could easily navigate the huge collection to find what they are seeking.

JFK Act 1992 reads very specifically : “Section 4 (a)….The Collection shall consist of record copies of all Government records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which shall be transmitted to the National Archives in accordance with section 2107 of title 44, united States Code. The Archivist shall prepare and publish a subject guidebook and index to the collection. ..”

Section 2107 Title 44 United States Code – there it is – along with the specific instruction for the Archivist to “prepare and publish a subject guidebook and index to the collection.”

Prepare and publish – guidebook and index – period.

Instead the NARA say they consider this section of the law fulfilled when they posted what they call a “searchable data base” on line, a data base that doesn’t work.

“We know how well the electronic data base works,” said Joe Backes, “not at all.”

According to Malcolm Blunt: “The searchable data base is basically unusable.”

In response to my question about the legal requirement for the AOTUS to “prepare and publish a subject guide and index to the collection,” the Archivist David Ferriero had Martha Murphy, responsible for the JFK Collection, to respond, and she said they are preparing to update the searchable data base, and will have a guide and index, but it won’t be ready until 2017, when the remaining sealed records are scheduled to be released. [See: Martha Murphy on the JFK Collection Guide and Idex]


In order to get that printed JFK Collection Guide and Index Finding Aide, and get the number of documents still being withheld, and find the missing records, and question those officials who intentionally destroyed assassination records, we will have to get a Congressional Hearing and oversight, something that hasn’t happened in over fifteen years.

The JFK Act specifically stipulates that: “Oversight – The Committee on Government Operations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Government Affairs of the Senate shall have continuing oversight jurisdiction with respect to the Collection.”

As James Douglas said, in order to get those Congressional Hearings on JFK Act oversight we will have to generate the same public outrage and response that was sparked by Stone’s movie JFK that got the JFK Act passed in the first place. Not easily done.

Those who want to try to get the responsible Congressional Committees to do their duty and oversee how the government is upholding the JFK Act – can contact the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – Sen. Tom R. Carper (Del.)  Chair, Sen. Tom Coburn (Ok) Ranking Member - 340 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510 (202) 224-2627 [ ]

In the House of Representatives – Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations (includes JFK Act and FOIA) is led by Rep. John Mica (Fla) Chair / Rep. Gerald E. Connally Ranking Member - 2157 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515 (202) 225-5074 Fax: (202) 225-3974 [ ]

Without Congressional oversight, without a JFK Collection Finding Aide, with a NARA Searchable Data Base that doesn’t work, John Newman, Bill Simpich, Stu Wexler, Larry Hancock, Malcolm Blunt, Rex Bradford, Joe Backes and others are finding their own way around the collection and are preparing their own Finding Aide.

Rex, who scanned the Mary Ferrell collection and put it on line, in partnership with AARC, scanned over a million pages of JFK Assassination documents that are on a CD and will soon be indexed for instant access.
Joe Backes gave his straightforward report on the “JFK Records Withheld until 2017. Joe had been following the work of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) closely and attended many of their meetings. At first the Review Board was required to publish a list of documents being withheld in the Federal Register including the RIFs –Record Identification Form - the 13 digit ID number of each document, the first three of which is the agency of origin. That at least gave us an indication of how many records were being withheld and who was withholding them, but there were so many that in April of 1998 they just began posting summaries.

Although the government and the NARA won’t do it, Joe has been compiling a list of these records withheld and he will soon be able to tell us exactly how many – he says it will certainly be in the tens of thousands of documents, which means there are hundreds of thousands of pages of government records on the assassination that are still being withheld for reasons of national security.

So far Joe’s has over 700 pages of list of docs withheld, 26,904 documents, of which 12,531 are CIA, and he says we will even have the total number of pages when he is finished. 

Backes calls special attention to the Pike Commission records, as well as the Califano papers, the Secret Service and the ONI records, making special reference to my work (thanks Joe) [ ONI ]

John Newman stepped to the mic to also note the records of the Pentagon office of Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI) are also significant, and indeed, if there are any smoking files in the records the smoke will be coming from the ACSI files, which are about as hot as you can get.

I’m sure one of the highlights of the conference, for the people who were there was a Question and Answer session with researcher Malcolm Blunt, who came to America once again to pour through the JFK Collection to find special and important documents that have been missed or ignored by other researchers. Blunt, Rex Bradford and Jerry Shinley have taken over the roles previously played by the late Mary Ferrell and Harold Weisberg, by sharing their knowledge of the JFK records with others.

While Malcolm didn’t want to deliver a formal presentation, he was convinced to do the Q & A session in the Breakout Room, and fielded the questions admirably.

“We need a decent finding aid to the records, “said Blunt, “It’s hard to make sense out of it without a finding aid.”

The electronic JFK Collection searchable database is basically un-useable he said.

One of the reasons is that in 2003 the CIA released 36 boxes of material in an accelerated release that had been scheduled for 2010 – records released that were not entered into the data base, so there are many files still marked “Withheld In Full” that are in fact entirely released.

Of the important things Blunt said, it isn’t the smoking documents in the files, but rather the files that are missing, and he gave some examples – for fifteen years he tried to access the papers of Edward Jay Epstein at Georgetown University library, but was denied access to them even though he had the proper permissions. Epstein interviewed many of the marines who served with Oswald and it was those raw interviews that Malcolm was after. But when they finally handed over the box it was empty.

Blunt also complained about the IRP – Interagency Reclassification Project – who apparently oversee the practice of reclassifying previously released records.

“They do make mistakes,” said Blunt. Records are misfiled, whole boxes of documents are unlabeled and in the case of the CIA, he thinks it direct obfuscation – and not due to simple human error – which does happen. He was once given two carts of file boxes on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, all unredacted and apparently unprocessed, and he got to read them for two days before they realized their mistake and took them back.

"My beef with NARA," says Blunt, "is they dumped (in their parlance 'interfiled') thousands of documents into the Warren Commission files and provided no index whatsoever, although to do this they must have had THEIR OWN INDEX in order to do this." 

Blunt also said he learned about a special IDN system that was set up parallel to the CIA’s 201 file, but focused on individuals associated with targeted organizations – such as the FPCC.

Upstairs Rex Bradford stayed on the topic he presented at the Wecht Conference – “The Church Committee and the CIA Assassination Plots,” a neglected area of research, especially considering how most of the Church Records are still being with held.

The esteemed Professor Peter Dale Scott came on the big screen via live remote and delivered an important essay on “Dallas and Other Deep Events,” focusing especially on the Continuity of Government (COG) operations as they unfolded during crisis, and pointed specifically to a number of important suspects who were at the COG controls at the time of the assassination. His talk is now posted and archived at Russ Bakers’ web site [ WhoWhatWhy   ].

In the end, our gracious host Jim Lesar pulled out all the stops in his talk on “The CIA and NARA Thwart Congress and the JFK Act,” which should wake up anyone who thought this subject was not relevant today.
“The NARA can’t tell us how many documents are still being withheld because they can’t count,” Jim Lesar deadpanned.  


In the end, Rex Bradford, Joe Backes, Lamar Waldron, Jim Lesar and Marie Fonzi conducted a panel discussion on the topic of “Where do we go from here?,” a topic that I too have some thoughts that I will bring up later, after all else is digested.

As Backes said, the first thing we need is Congressional oversight, Congressional hearings, but we also, as others have pointed out, need to make the October 2017 date set by the ARRB a campaign issue in the next presidential race because the next president, whoever she may be, will either release or postpone the remaining sealed records and we have to get them all to come out for release of the records before the election.

Then there is this November 22 – 51 year anniversary. There will be a gathering of Free the JFK Files agitators at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts [   ], and I don’t think one person should be responsible for this. Perhaps others will join the fray and from the JFK CPA march on the NARA, where the real holdup is happening.

There will also be a JFK Lancer min-conference in Dallas this year, and Dallas COPA members will lead the moment of silence at the Grassy Knoll and continue the tradition begun by Penn Jones on November 22 1964 and continued by John Judge.

In the conference book stall, forensic investigator Sherry Feister gave me a copy of her book – “Enemy of the Truth – Myths, Forensics and the Kennedy Assassination,” and a tote bag that quotes JFK as saying: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall - but an idea lives on.”  

I think the Bethesda conference will be the Last Hurrah for such serious JFK Conferences, though there may be another important one just before or after the October 2017 release of the remaining records.

As the Last Hurrah for JFK, it is the end of a 50 year era, but that also makes it the beginning of another era, one that has yet to happen, one that we can try to use the knowledge we have gained to shape and direct to make a better society, or as the case may be, to become better assassins.  

Bill Kelly
Browns Mills, NJ

Note: Some of Bill Kelly’s research on the assassination of President Kennedy was supported, in part, by a grant from the Fund For Constitutional Government Investigative Journalism Project. Many thanks to John Judge, Fred Prinz, Cyril Wecht, Conrad Martin, and everyone who has supported my JFK research over the years.

Bill Kelly Notes: On Style. Since I read most of the news and feature reports on the Conference, I didn’t want to duplicate them, so I wrote what I think is a comprehensive summary of what happened, and while I don’t touch on everything, I get to as much as possible, and focus on what I think important. While it may seem a little too wordy, I have tried to adopt some of the style Rob Walker used when he covered the Formula One Grand Prix circuit for Road & Track Magazine – and try to make the reader feel like they are there, going behind the scenes to get the most critical and important information and adding enough color and commentary to keep the reader’s interest. I hope it works, let me know, as well as any mistakes, typos, spellings or other corrections since the beauty of the internet is you can correct it.

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