Tuesday, June 12, 2012

National Archives to Keep JFK Secrets until 2017

The National Archives (NARA) today turned down the request of a Washington non-profit public interest group to declassify secret records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in time for the 50th anniversary of that tragic event in 2013.

The request for release of the secret documents was made by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a Washington, D.C. non-profit public interest group in a letter signed by several of its board members and attorneys Mark Zaid, Charles Sanders and Prof G Robert Blakey, who served as the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

The letter made the point that the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in 2013 will result in widespread discussion and news coverage, and that government documents related to the assassination should be made public in order for a fully informed discussion.

Here is the complete text of the response from the National Archives in a letter from NARA General Counsel Gary M. Stern to Assassination Archives and Research Center President Jim Lesar:

“I write in response to the letter of January 20, 2012, from you and five colleagues to David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, requesting that the National Archives and Records Administration review the remaining classified documents that were ‘postponed’ from public disclosure in accordance with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination in November 2013.

“We share your passion and commitment to providing access to JFK assassination records as quickly as possible. As your letter recounts, the JFK Act established a rigorous process for declassification review and release that was administered by the Assassination Records Review Board until 1998. For any assassination records that were not released by the ARRB, subsequent release could be postponed until a date certain not to exceed 25 years from the enactment of the JFK Act, i.e., no later than 2017.

“The JFK Act Collection consists of a total of approximately 5 million pages, and less than 1% of the documents in the Collection are ‘postponed in full’ until 2017. I note that your letter states that in 2010, Assistant Archivist ‘Michael Kurtz revealed that the CIA continues to withhold approximately 50,000 pages of JFK assassination-related records.’ I would like to clarify that NARA has never counted, and thus does not know, the actual number of pages that are postponed in full. Dr. Kurtz accurately stated that ‘less than one percent’ of the total volume of assassination records was still being withheld; he also provided our rough estimate that the collection totals approximately five million pages. Thus, it appears that the 50,000 page number in your letter may have been derived by incorrectly calculating a full one percent of five million pages. All we do know is that the CIA withheld in full a total of 1,171 documents as national security classified (there is a small number of other agency documents also postponed in full, principally for law enforcement).

“Your letter asks NARA to submit these remaining 1,171 documents ‘currently withheld by the CIA’ for declassification review as part of the National Declassification Center's (NDC) project to complete the declassification of the ‘400 million page backlog’ identified in the President's December 29, 2009, Memorandum Implementing Executive Order 13526, by December 31, 2013. We recognize that, in a 2010 public forum. Dr. Kurtz stated that the postponed JFK assassination records would be included as part of the NDC project. However, as we have tried to explain before. Dr. Kurtz misspoke. Rather, because the postponed JFK assassination records have already been subject to a full and complete government-wide declassification review, they are not part of the 400 million page backlog of records that have yet to receive a final review.

“Because of the mandated December 31, 2013 deadline for our review and processing of the extremely large set of backlogged records, the NDC must target its efforts exclusively on records contained within that backlog. In addition, because we are limited in the resources we can assign to these special reviews, we try to balance historical impact, public interest, and extent of other government agency involvement in order to manage government-wide declassification resource constraints as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“As you know, the JFK Act authorized unprecedented powers for the ARRB, including the ability to overturn an agency decision on declassification, with the President as the only appeal authority. Although agencies did appeal ARRB decisions, President Clinton did not overturn any access determinations on appeal. The power wielded by the ARRB meant that more records were declassified and made available under the JFK Act than would have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or any currently applicable review provision of the prior or current Executive Order on Classified National Security Information.

“As previously mentioned, the 1,171 remaining postponed documents will be released in 2017, unless the President personally certifies on a document by document basis that continued postponement is necessary and that the harm from disclosure is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Moreover, as you point out, the JFK Act clearly intended for periodic releases prior to the 2017 date. To date all of the periodic release dates have been met, including in 2006, when the CIA made preemptory releases of all documents that were postponed from release until 2010. Thus, the only documents in the Collection that are still withheld in full for classification reasons are the 1,171 CIA documents that the ARRB agreed should not be released until 2017.

“We recognize that the remaining records are of high public interest and historical value, and we appreciate your stated desire not to have to wait five more years to obtain access to these records. Given this public interest, we have been consulting with the CIA to see if it would be possible to review and release any of these remaining documents in time for the 50"^ anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in 2013. Although the CIA shares NARA's interest in wanting to be responsive to your request, they have concluded there are substantial logistical requirements that must take place prior to the release of these remaining records and there is simply not sufficient time or resources to complete these tasks prior to 2017. Accordingly, we will not be able to accommodate your request.

“Thank you for your interest in this matter. Please share this letter with the co-signatories to your letter, and let me know if you have any questions.” [END]

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

"“As previously mentioned, the 1,171 remaining postponed documents will be released in 2017, unless the President personally certifies on a document by document basis that continued postponement is necessary and that the harm from disclosure is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure. "

MORE B.S. FROM THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH. THE FACT THAT THEY ARE HIDING IT IS ENOUGH TO WARRANT SUSPICION, OR DARE I SAY "REVOLUTION".

Andrew Gross said...

Cover up continues

50+years later!

Dale K. Myers said...

Cover up???? Get real. Millions upon millions of pages have been released to the public. Less than 1% remain classified for legal reasons. The notion that the 1,171 postponed documents will overturn that which we already know to be true based on the millions of pages of documents that have been released is absurd.

Steve said...

Dale,

You assert that the withheld documents will not change what we know from other documents.

Without seeing the documents, what is your evidence for saying that?

The CIA claims logistical reasons, not "legal reasons", prevent the documents release.

Do you really believe that the CIA can't process 1100 pages before 2017 based on logistics?

Now that notion is absurd.

- Steve

Dale K. Myers said...

What I clearly asserted in an above response to another poster was: "The notion that the 1,171 postponed documents will overturn that which we already know to be true based on the millions of pages of documents that have been released is absurd." (emphasis added)

"...That which we already know to be true..."

Get it? If we already know something is true, then a subsequent document can only add detail to, or color that truth. It cannot offer a completely different "truth" that runs counter to that which is already known to be true.

As for the CIA's logistic reasons, the 1,171 pages in question have already been set for release by 2017. Attorney Jim Lesar and five colleagues sought to move the date up by five years - i.e., process the release 75% faster. The NARA and the CIA agreed this wasn't feasible.

Considering the speed at which the bureaucratic world works, this doesn't seem unreasonable to me. (Can anyone imagine going into the DMV and trying to get them to work 75% faster?) Perhaps your world experience is different.

Steve said...

Dale,

Your point about the speed of bureacracy is well-taken.

However, we are talking CIA, not DMV. They have the resources to move much quicker.

The fact is, we don't know how those unreleased papers will inform our view.

They may add to, or negate prior information.

Many of the unreleased documents are files about individuals who, because of their areas of responsibility, may have known about a communist-agitating security risk like Oswald.

Such persons like Birch D. O'Neil and Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Egerter of James Angleton's CI/SIG, who controlled the Oswald file.

Or George Joannides, the handler for the DRE group.

Or David Atlee Phillips, who the Agency now admits was Maurice Bishop (see Daily Beast article by Glenn E. Carle, June 2012).

Or David Sanchez Morales, CIA covert operator who admitted involvement in killing JFK to his lawyer and best friend. [Gaeton Fonzi was hot on Morales's trail, and Phillips threw him off].

Or Thomas Arthur Vallee, a gun-toting former Marine caught threatening JFK in Chicago 3 weeks before Dallas, just as a Cuban sniper team was rolled up then lost.

All of these individuals have unreleased files. The release of these documents may completely change what we know about Oswald's connections, or they may not inform us at all.

It's really premature to say definitively either
way.

However, they should be released with all due haste. Not in 2017.

Dale K. Myers said...

"...we are talking CIA, not DMV. They have the resources to move much quicker..." Thanks for the laugh.

I agree on waiting to see what the docs actually say before making further comment, but in the meantime, try not to get sucked into conspiracy speak (i.e., "...who the Agency now admits was Maurice Bishop..." - actually, Glenn E. Carle, a former CIA employee made the claim, not the CIA).

Steve said...

Dale,

That is a fair point you make that Carle is a former employee.

In my opinion, he wouldn't make that statement without approval, nor is it "conspiracy speak" to believe so.

Why? Because Agency rules require all that publications by former employees be subject to review and approval.

Dale K. Myers said...

Glenn E. Carle, a former CIA employee, was writing a review of another former employees book. It was Carle who commented on the identity of Bishop, not former CIA analyst Brian Lattell, whose book Carle was reviewing.

I think we can agree that your previous post ("...the Agency now admits...") was misleading at best. The last post ("...Agency rules require all that publications...") is a bit of a stretch to include every word ever uttered in print (i.e., a book review) by a former employee. Did Carle reveal too much in his review of Lattell's work? Who knows. I for one prefer to wait for the document release in 2017.

Steve said...

Dale,

I was "misleading at best"? How about "at worst"?

Unfortunately for your argument, it is not a stretch to say "all publications" are reviewed and approved by CIA, including book reviews like Glenn E. Carle's where he said David Atlee Phillips was Maurice Bishop.

Please see the following article on the Agency's website:

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/docs/v41i3a01p.htm

Paragraph three states that book reviews by former employees - such as Glenn E. Carle - are reviewed and approved before they are published by the CIA's Publication Review Board.

Now, that doesn't mean that the PRB knew who Maurice Bishop was, or the significance of that pseudonym to the JFK case.

As you noted, Carle may or may not have revealed too much.

However, what is undisputed is that his novel revelation that Phillips was Bishop was reviewed and approved by the CIA.

As an aside, why are you content to wait until 2017 for new information, given your continuing studies in this are?

--
Correction: In my last post, I meant to write "that all publications", not "all that publications".

- Steve

Dale K. Myers said...

Let's cut to the chase: You're right - the CIA does review book reviews written by former employees in order to hold them to their "contractual obligation--to protect sources and methods of collection and analysis." However, you are wrong, as I stated at the onset of this sidebar on Maurice Bishop, that the CIA had "admitted" that David Atlee Phillips had used Maurice Bishop as a pseudonym based on Glenn E. Carle's review of the Brian Lattell book. The CIA doesn't "admit" anything when approving or disapproving the writings of former employees. As paragraph 8 of your own citation on CIA rules and regs shows, "...Permission to publish cannot be denied solely because information may be embarrassing to CIA or critical of it, or inaccurate. People have a right to their opinions, and they have a right to be wrong. (emphasis added

In short, Glenn E. Carle has a right to say anything he wants - no matter whether what he says is right or wrong - so long as it doesn't conflict with his contractual obligations as a former CIA employee. The CIA takes no side and admits nothing. I pointed out that your claim that "the Agency now admits [that David Atlee Phillips] was Maurice Bishop" was what I call "conspiracy speak" - i.e., the desire by conspiracy theorists to ordain as fact that which is unsubstantiated or unproven. Your reference to the CIA Publication Review Board's rules and regs neither substantiates or proves your claim. In fact, it underscores the very point I was making - the CIA has "admitted" nothing.

As to my level of contentment regarding the release of 1,171 CIA documents before 2017, I would have preferred that everything had been laid bare for all the world to see fifty years ago. I realize, of course, that that's a rather naive position to take. The world turns slowly. Frankly, I'm grateful that we'll see them at all, thanks to the ARRB. I've waited this long; five additional years doesn't seem that long to me.

But even that said, I don't for a minute believe that whatever is released next year or five years from now will completely answer the burning questions about the issue of conspiracy. Everyone knows the real substantive information was never written down.

Anonymous said...

Well there are issues of conspiracy. There is another shooter, probably 2 more. The 1st shot was the que for the 2nd and 3rd. The initial percussion draws everyone's attention to turn away from the fatal frontal shots. Oswald may not have fired even one shot. When I see video of Oswald 45 years later, he just looks like an operator that was part of a plan gone wrong. Skull fragments will not project on the trunk of the car from a shot from the rear. JFK's head moves backward from a frontal shot, period. The Texas AG has enough evidence to open an unsolved murder in Dallas , Nov 22nd , 1963.

Dale K. Myers said...

Anonymous - If you had read the millions of pages that are already available, and have been available for the better part of 50 years, you would know that the basis for your conspiracy argument is false. Rather than wait for the 2017, why not take time to educate yourself? Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

More cover up...ok who is still alive that they are waiting to die so they can release the rest of the documents?
Read the book J Edgar Hoover, even he was totally corrupt as is most government institutions and cities etc...Not all the documents are released Dale....but there are still over 1000 that are not and I did do my research, they will not release those until 2017.

Anonymous said...

Is not any official ACT or Executive Order or postponment of release of these documents OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE? Should not Justice prevail?

Dale K. Myers said...

No, postponing release is not an obstruction of justice - it's the law. Justice prevails when we follow the laws set down to protect the rights of citizens. Your right to know does not subvert other rights. The presumption in your question is that the documents being withheld are being withheld illegally - something you don't know to be true. If you have evidence to the contrary, file a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

And what happens in 2017 if the President determines "on a document by document basis" that release of this information might not be in the nations best interests?

There may be information that remains classified beyond 2017. At least that's how I would read this.

Nitrous

Dale K. Myers said...

That's correct. They could still postpone certain documents indefinitely.

BB said...

Does anyone know specifically who is being protected by with-holding the files until 2017?

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I'll be dead before the files are released.