Monday, June 27, 2016

Letter to the AOTUS Re: JFK Act of 1992

William E. Kelly, Jr.
20 Columbine Ave.
Browns Mills, New Jersey 08015

June 27, 2016

Mr. David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001

Dear Mr. Ferriero,

As a researcher, fellow blogger and Walt Whitman enthusiast, I was fascinated by your blog post "Calling All Whitman Fans." I found it amazing that over 3,000 previously unknown Whitman records could have secretly existed among the stacks of documents at the Archives. Their discovery gives hope that more such historic gems are waiting to be found among our nation’s family jewels in the Archives’ attic. I have a particular interest in the missing and still-withheld records of the assassination of President Kennedy, the subject of much of my research.

As a co-founder of the Committee for an Open Archives, I lobbied Congress to release the remaining House Select Committee on Assassinations records and took an active interest in the passage of the JFK Act as an original member of the Coalition on Political Assassinations. Now, in my capacity as Secretary of Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), I continue that work to ensure that the JFK Act is appropriately enforced.

I appreciate your commitment to the job and appeal to you to try to resolve some of the outstanding issues concerning the JFK Collection at the Archives II and the enforcement of the JFK Records Act (44 U.S.C.A. 2107).  As you know the law requires all government records pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy to be collected and deposited in the JFK Collection at Archives II.  Further, the law requires such records are to be immediately made available to the public unless delayed until October 26, 2017.  At that time it is anticipated that you will be able to certify to the president, Congress and the public that: “all assassination records have been made available to the public in accordance with this Act” as the law stipulates.

Section 4 of the JFK Act states: “the Archivist shall ensure the physical integrity and original provenance of all records. The Collection shall consist of records 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 to the collection,…a central directory comprised of identification aids created for each record transmitted to the Archivist and the Archivist shall ensure that the identification aid program is established in such a manner as to result in the creation of a uniform system of electronic records by Government offices that are compatible with each other.” (Emphasis added.) 

The Act’s mandate that the “Archivist shall prepare and publish a subject guidebook to the collection,” has not been undertaken and I am advised by your polite and efficient staff that the digital data base legally suffices to meet the requirements of the Act even though such a digital data base cannot be reasonably construed as a published subject guidebook, as the law prescribes. The existing digital data base may be compatible with and sufficiently accessible to various government offices but it certainly is not sufficiently accessible or compatible with public research within the meaning of the Act. The digital data base has not been updated in years to keep abreast of evolving information and many of the records listed as still classified on the database have in fact been open to the public for years. In addition, I am informed that the Archives’ staff uses a different data base that is continuously updated. The fact that this updated data base is not accessible to the public suggests a two-tiered system that is incompatible with the spirit and the letter of the Act.

In addition to the lack of a published subject index and the elusiveness of an accessible, updated digital data base, the most serious issue I wish to call to your attention involves the many missing records. Compounding this problem is the evident failure of the NARA to actively investigate the location of all missing records in order to recover them.

My most particular concern is with: 1) the original Air Force One radio transmission tapes; 2) the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) defector files; 3) the records relating to all interviews and depositions conducted by the Church Committee; and 4) the ONI 119 Reports.

As I understand that you are a former Navy corpsman, and I thank you for your service in Vietnam. Because of your personal interest in Navy records you may already be aware of the sorry state of the ONI records relating to the assassination, many of which have been reported as lost or missing. Certainly the suggestion that any such records may be wrongfully withheld today would be a justifiable cause of concern to the National Archives.

Some documents that have been located, such as the records of former HSCA chief counsel Richard Sprague, are not being properly obtained and made available, even though they are within the ambit of the Act and unquestionably belong in the JFK Collection.

In view of the mandate that “No assassination record shall be destroyed, altered, or mutilated in any way,” as provided by the Act, the reported destruction of records and evidence by employees of the Secret Service is a particular source of dismay. To my knowledge, in spite of such admissions, no investigation of these reports is being pursued and no one has been charged with a crime. The lack of enforcement activity may be understandable in view of the lack of congressional oversight; no hearings on compliance have been held in 18 years.  This nonfeasance makes the situation no less unacceptable. 

Since the law mandates the Archivist of the United States be accountable for ensuring this law is carried out I am requesting that the JFK Act of 1992 be enforced forthwith. Will the National Archives publish a subject index as the law requires? Will the National Archives open the updated digital data base to researchers? Will the National Archives pursue the missing records? Will the National Archives request Congress to hold oversight hearings on the JFK Act? 
Please also consider this a request for a personal meeting with you and JFK Collection-Archives II staff and two or three serious, responsible researchers to discuss some of these issues and to consider the best way that we may work together to resolve them within the mandates of the Act.

Thank you for your time and prompt attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

William E. Kelly, Jr.
CAPA Secretary

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