Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why It's Important To Release the JFK Assassination Records Now

                                       The Archives of the United States - "The Past Is Prologue."

Why It’s Important to Release the JFK Assassination Records Now

The great debate on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is not between Conspiracy Theorists and Lone Nutters as expected, it is over the release of the remaining still secret records that the government refuses to open to the public.

While all of the withheld records are scheduled to be released in 2017, the CIA and other agencies are expected to ask the President to continue to withhold them, possibly forever, or at least in our lifetime, and the President is expected to comply, unless he is convinced to release them now.

When I asked Marion Johnson, the archivist once responsible for the JFK records, why the House Select Committee on Assassination (HSCA) records were withheld for 50 years, and not 25 or 100, he said that that 50 years was the estimated amount of time that those persons mentioned in the records would be dead. If they are dead then they are unable to be embarrassed, or answer questions.

Since it is not yet 50 years, statistically speaking there are still some of the witnesses named in the records who are sill alive and can be interviewed about these issues, as new witnesses mentioned in other record have already been identified and located alive today.

President Obama made open records and government transparency his first mandate when he assumed office. He established the National Declassification Review Board and ordered the accelerated release of many government records by 2013, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. At a public hearing, the associate Archivist said that public interest would help dictate which of the back log of millions of records would be given a priority and the JFK assassination records would be included. The response to an on-line public NARA forum poll placed the JFK assassination records at the top of the relevant topics.

Since then the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in league with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has reneged on that promise and now says that because the CIA cannot “logistically” manage it, the JFK assassination records will not be included in the 2013 declassification review, and will remain sealed.

The CIA claims that it doesn’t have the manpower or ability to accelerate the review process even though it did just that in 2006, releasing all of the records scheduled for release in 2010.

The CIA has also kept many records out of the JFK Assassination Records Collection process by deeming them “Not Considered Relevant,” including the CIA’s operational files connected to the DRE, the anti-Castro Cuban exile group that the accused assassin tried to infiltrate and got into a scuffle with on the streets of New Orleans. How can they maintain that those records are not relevant if they involve the accused assassin?

Rather than just release these record, obviously relevant to the public assessment of the assassination, the government has spent millions of dollars in court costs in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases fighting the requested release of 50 year old records, including those of CIA officer George Joannides, who controlled the CIA’s funds to the DRE. Among the records released in the Morley v. CIA case showed that Joannides was the very same CIA officer who was called out of retirement to serve as liaison to the House Committee and cut off their access to CIA records, which he did.

The efforts to free the JFK assassination related records in the courts have received recent setbacks, with the Morley case being remanded back to district court and the National Security Archives (NSA) losing the first round of its case to have one of the volumes of CIA analysis of the Bay of Pigs released, even though a companion volume was released under the JFK Act.

President Obama, who has said that “no records will remain sealed forever,” exerted Executive Privilege in order to keep records under raps on a recent operation to sell and track weapons to Mexican drug cartels, understandable as an ongoing legal investigation. But if those records are still being withheld 50 years from now, it clearly won’t be because of national security or an ongoing legal case, but to avoid embarrassment by those who work for the government.

If a deranged lone nut killed the President 50 years ago, there should be no records withheld in the name of national security, and while some records may have been withheld for many years in order to preserve “sources and methods,” that is no longer the case. The sources and methods are now all well known.

As Jim Hougan has noted, “The assassination of President Kennedy is a national security issue of the first order. How can we turn the page on this event without first having the opportunity to read it?”

So the issue regarding the government records on the assassination of President Kennedy – at one time a matter of national security to keep secret, is now a matter of national security to release to the public.

If you agree, please sign our petition:

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