Tuesday, February 23, 2016

List of Withheld Records - A Preliminary Report

Note - this is a first draft - I will add more links and graphics ASAP. - BK 




   “It may seem to those nourished on the exploits of James Bond ,…that journalistic activities have little to do with intelligence work. But intelligence is a mosaic. General material about background and people’s interrelationships can be both illuminating and important. Quite often missing pieces of the mosaic emerge that make a previously incomprehensible picture unexpectedly clear.” – Mary Bancroft (Autobiography of a Spy, William Morrow, 1983 p. 150)

A nation’s history and its official secrets are often considered the Family Jewels, and America’s secret records of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are considered the most precious secrets that the government refuses to give up, even reveal to its own citizens.

The real Deep Political secret records never see the light of day and are Deep Sixed so they are forever gone, though occasionally one will float to the surface and be saved and placed on a shelf in a secure and temperature controlled vault where many of the nation’s most precious secrets are stored.

Among the official archival records there is the JFK Collection at the Archives II industrial warehouse of records in College Park, Maryland. The JFK Collection was instituted by the JFK Act of 1992 – a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. H. Bush. It requires all of the government’s records on the assassination of President Kennedy be released to the public by October 2017, a fast approaching date that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) says it will meet despite the reluctance of other agencies of government.

The only way an official record can still be withheld beyond that date is by an order of the President of the United States, whoeverf he or she may be, and this is an issue that is certain to be brought to the attention of each of the candidates for that office.

But we don’t have to wait until October 2017 to get a glimpse of these Family Jewels because, thanks to the determined efforts of a few intrepid researchers we have a new document – which purports to be a list of the  over 3,000 JFK assassination records still being withheld that are scheduled to be released in 2017.

Both independent researcher Michael Ravnitzky and reporter Bryan Bender can be credited for seeking this document and breaking this story. Ravnitzky first requested the document, and had it posted at Russ Baker’s WWWW web site. Bryan Bender who wrote about this story for the Boston Globe and now does so for the digital journal Politico, also requested the document under the Freedom of Information Act and has followed up with a series of FOIA requests for other records. So far Jefferson Morley at JFKFacts.org and the British Daily Mail have followed up with additional stories.  

This list of withheld JFK assassination records is like a small port-hole window through which we can shine a little light into the dark world of secrets being kept in the government’s vault. Though we will have a much better picture window view of them on stage, under the lights and in great detail when all of the records are released to the public for everyone to read, this one document gives us some insight into what we will find. 

The new document purports to answer a lot of questions concerning the withheld records but actually creates fresh doubts and sparks new questions - like how many records are still being withheld? And why isn’t the JFK Act  being strictly enforced by Congressional oversight, as it should be?   

At first glance the 146 page spread sheet list of RIFs – Record Identification Forms, for the most part lists their topic, agency of origin and how many pages they are – gives us some concrete numbers that have thus far been missing. 3, 603 and 3,063 still with held documents have been the most frequent numbers thrown about – but Raymon Herrera, who has put together a program to reconfigure the documents in a more readable form says that there are actually 3,568 RIF records listed.  

If you use the NARA’s hopelessly outdated digital data base you come up with tens of thousands of records that are listed as withheld in full or in part but in fact are readily available as they were released in a number of earlier data dumps, sometimes accelerating the release of the records years before they were required to.
The dumping of tons of documents into the public domain at one time is also a deliberate obstrufustion tactic in which the really significant gems of informative facts are included among useless information, thus insuring it won’t be found for years, at least until some intrepid researcher requests it or accidently stumbles across it, discovers it and recognizes its significance. One small piece of the Dealey Plaza Mosaic, as Mary Bancroft would put it, a piece that makes it all so unexpectedly clear.

At first glance a quick survey of the new list of still withheld JFK assassination records requires the creation of a new list of issues this document raises, beginning with the total number of records still being withheld. 
 Then there’s the question of exactly how many are being withheld by each agency of government? Is it really 3, 568 or is that a number that will change over time as we sift through the records.

This document gives us the names and subject matter that is the topic of each document, at least some of them, and discloses or explains why some of the records are being withheld, many under (b)(3) 26 U.S.C. &6103 – the IRS personal privacy law. Does this law trump the JFK Act? Will it be used to keep records withheld beyond October 2017 even without a presidential order?

Some of William Manchester’s records are also among these records, including interviews with Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy. Manchester has placed a personal time of release that is beyond the JFK Act, so which one rules? Will William Manchester’s personal last will and testament over rule the JFK Act, or will that issue be used to continue the withholding of the records with or without the president’s approval? 
The list indicates a few things right off the bat including the fact that hundreds of the documents are identified as being “illegible,” meaning you can’t read it, which begs the question - why the agencies of government would withhold a record that can’t be read, and why would the ARRB approve the withholding of such a record?

Another thing that jumps out of the list is the fact that there are many Warren Commission documents still being withheld, when it was previously alleged by the NARA that all of the Warren Commission era records had been released.

In addition, while the House Select Committee on Assassination (HSCA) MLK records were not included in the JFK Act, there are many MLK and MLK assassination records on the list, as well as a number of records concerning racial riots, anti-war demonstrations and the 1968 Democratic National Convention, all of which occurred years after the assassination. Why are these documents being included among the JFK Assassination Records Collection?

Some of the withheld records, such as the Collins Radio documents are labeled “NBR” – Not Believed Relevant, yet they most certainly are as Collins Radio made the Air Force One radios and operated the relay station that broadcast the signals. This begs the question as to why they would include dozens of irrelevant records on political demonstrations that occurred years after the assassination, yet try to with hold the most significant records that are directly connected to the assassination?

Of the  ONI records being withheld, it is noteworthy that the ONI Defector Files are not among them, which indicates that they have been deliberately excluded from the JFK Collection, not given a RIF number and are simply being withheld without being included among the official list of records being with held.

Other ONI records, such as the 119 Reports we know exist or did exist at one time, and the assassination records of ONI chief Admiral Rufus Taylor, are not listed either, so they are not being withheld, and won’t be released in October 2017, but must be considered missing, lost, stolen or intentionally destroyed. Why is there is no investigation into what became of these missing records?

Most noteworthy is the fact that some of the records listed as being withheld have already been released, though in most cases, in redacted form.

The Subjects-Topic of the documents on the list can be broken down into four categories – names of individuals, organizations, places and record  types. I have listed as many of the individuals mentioned as I can at JFKCountercoup2 -  https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=522635142791807512 - allposts/postNum=2 

I have previously reviewed some of the background off Judd McIlvaine, the University of Missouri Journalism grad who specialized in Central and South American news and whose interview with the Church Committee is among the list of withheld records. It was quickly established that McIlvaine had also been interviewed at length by others and there are related government records already released, so whatever it is in this record that is being suppressed is probably already available from other sources.

As some researchers have noted, some records being withheld by one agency have already been released by another agency. If you want to get some deep background on a particular record that’s listed you can go to the NARA or MaryFerrell.org data base and type in the first two groups of the RIF number and it will lead you to other documents in that field, sometimes even the exact document that’s listed as being withheld has already been released and is available on line.

One series of documents on the list relates to JFK advance man John Byrne and one Bill Turner - not the recently deceased former FBI agent, but the Exalted Ruler of the Fort Worth Elks Club. He sked JFK’s advance man John Byrne if the president would stop to visit his club house, a request that was politely rejected. But apparently he generated a half dozen reports and official documents that have been officially deemed so secret that they must be kept from the curious and reading public in order to maintain the nation’s security.

But you can read about Byrne’s successful and fateful advance trip to Fort Worth in the article “The Day Before Dallas” that he wrote for Prologue, the glossy NARA magazine, in which he mentions the requests he received from various Texas civic leaders, including Bill Turner, the Exalted Ruler of the Elks. Maybe there was a plot to kill the President at the Elks Club, or some other issue of national security, one that we will learn the answer to come October 2017.

Whether the JFK Collection contains all of the official records as required is yet to be seen but one thing is for certain, there will be another data dump come that day, and the most precious of secrets will be made available to the public for all to see, but it will be up to the researchers, historians, journalists and reporters who will have to dig through the morass to find the real gems that are the final pieces to Mary Bancroft’s Mosaic, the total picture of what really happened at Dealey Plaza.

Bancroft was also fond of quoting her uncle  C.W. Barron, who often reminded her, “Remember that facts are not the truth. They only indicate where the truth may lie!”

So `the Top Ten Issues this document presents and the questions they pose are:

1) How many records are still being withheld?
2) How many agencies are involved and how many are being withheld from each agency?
3) Why are there so many described as “illegible”? Why were they withheld and why did ARRB agree to withhold them?
4) How many Warren Commission records are still being withheld? The zero answer previously provided by NARA is clearly incorrect.
5) Why are MLK assassination records, race riots and the DNC 1968 records, clearly unrelated to the assassination included in the JFK Collection when they are clearly NBR?
6) Why are the Collins Radio records described as NBR when theyv are relevant?
7) How come the ONI Defector and ONI Director Files are not listed among the still withheld records when they are still being withheld?
8) Why are there so many records listed as withheld when in fact they have been released and are available?
9) What about the records we know exist that are not among the JFK Collection – ONI 119 Reports, ONI Director Files, Richard Sprague’s HSCA records, the original Air Force One radio tapes and other such records? Is the NARA actively searching and seeking these records?
10) Will the AOTUS – Mr. Ferraro – ever get around to publishing an index and guide to the JFK Collection as the JFK Act law requires?

And finally, when will the appropriate committee of Congress hold public hearings on the JFK Act, inquire as to why there are so many missing and possibly destroyed records, and see to the strict and proper enforcement of the JFK Act?

After all, these records - the Family Jewels are the history of America – our history, our nation, and they do not belong to any secret government agency, classified redactor or petty bureaucrat – they belong to the citizens who paid for them and legally own them, as the secrets of the assassination are all our secrets.

And as Dan Ellisberg asked, once we learn the secrets, what are we going to do with that new knowledge?

Bill Kelly can be reached at billkelly3@gmail.com


John Thomas said...

Excellent analysis Bill. One could also contend that if as the Government still claims - the death of JFK was all the work of one deranged, dirty little communist, now long dead - why has there been a need to withold any records at all? Also, are LHO's tax records to be released in full?

Frank DeBenedictis said...

As someone who contributed to the records collection by identifying certain Florida state records that the Assassination Records Review Board [and past investigations didn't know about, I am concerned that these records would not fit into the rules and guidelines. For one the Warren Commission Records and the House Assassinations Committee have dates in which they are mandated to be open. Records not fitting into these federal investigations would not fit into the required dates to be open to the public. Therefore they could be held up for 25 years [mandatory date for FOIA requests]after the AARB closed its doors.