Is the Government Holding Back Crucial Documents? (JFK, 911, UFO’s…)
Next year will be a half-century since the death of JFK. And the Obama Administration thinks we need to keep secret the records on the matter….a little longer yet.
Believe it or not, more than 50,000 pages of JFK assassination-related documents are being withheld in full. And an untold number of documents have been partially withheld, or released with everything interesting blacked out. But why?
Since the government and the big media keep telling us there was no conspiracy, and that it was all Lee Harvey Oswald acting on his own, why continue to keep the wraps on?
We don’t have an answer, but in understanding this and any number of other mysteries, we can begin looking for patterns in the way the administration handles information policy.
We Want to Hear From You (But That’s It—We Just Want to Hear From You)
Earlier this year, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked, on its online Open Government Forum, for suggestions from the public about what it could do to create greater transparency. The #1 most popular idea? Get those Kennedy records out—before Nov. 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the Dallas tragedy.
But instead of dealing honestly with this matter, the feds have resorted to disinformation. In an interview with the Boston Globe, the Archivist of the United States claimed that at two public forums held on open records, the most public comments came from people interested either in the JFK assassination or….in UFOs.
Except for one thing: James Lesar, an attorney and co-founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a DC-based nonprofit that has fought a long and valiant fight on behalf of the public interest in disclosure, attended both of those forums and says that as he recalls there were no people there asking about UFOs, or that at most it was of negligible interest. In fact, a look at NARA’s online idea forum (now closed) showed no UFO proposals or comments.
So, what’s with claiming otherwise? One could be excused for seeing in the Archivist’s statement a deliberate, and unworthy, attempt to smear the legitimacy of JFK inquiries by trying to make them appear “kooky.” (Not to judge the merits of the idea that there could be life elsewhere in the Universe, but the term “UFO conspiracist” is a well-worn dysphemism.)
Here’s what actually happened at the NARA forums.
The first was held in 2010. The assistant archivist, Michael Kurtz, said that withheld JFK assassination records would be processed, along with other documents, for declassification—and that the process should be completed by the end of 2013.
But by 2011, Kurtz, who had been at NARA for decades, had retired. At the 2011 forum, Jim Lesar was told that JFK assassination records are not part of the declassification process. Hence, they will not be reviewed for release.
Huh? What Happened
For some perspective, meet Sheryl Shenberger. She’s the head of the Archives’ National Declassification Center. What would you guess Sheryl’s professional background would be? Library of Congress? Academic research? Nope. Before NDC, Sheryl worked for….the Central Intelligence Agency.
The most logical and reasonable explanation for this is that the Obama administration placed an ex-spook in charge of declassification because this would induce her old colleagues in Langley to cooperate. (Which of course raises the question of whether, in a real democracy, you would want to have a bunch of people secretly deciding to do whatever they wanted with 50-year-old documents pertaining to a supposed loony loner who whacked a president.)
Frustrated by the administration’s foot-dragging on JFK, AARC sent a letter urging the government to get off its duff. One signer was G. Robert Blakey, who served as a Chief Counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (which in its 1978 final report said that, um…it looks like an organized conspiracy was responsible for JFK’s death.)
ARRC’s letter was dated January 20, 2012. According to Lesar, there has still been no reply—though NARA says it is working on it.
Release of the remaining documents, under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, can be postponed until October 26, 2017. Not so bad, you say? Actually, the Act further states that even in 2017, the president may decide to drag this on further, by withholding records indefinitely.
Records activists expect the CIA to petition for just such a decision. Any bets on President Hillary or President Mitt—or, quite possibly, President Jeb Bush, doing the right thing? With all the secrets Jeb’s father has to hide?
Playing Games with Numbers
One of the problems is that we’re being asked to trust these folks at all. Even the number of documents being withheld—50,000—is a guess. At the 2010 public forum, Asst. Archivist Kurtz said that only about one percent of the five million pages had been withheld. Now the government is likely to say the number is even smaller. But think about it: what would they withhold, except the stuff that really tells us something important? So whether it is 50,000 or 500 documents, it appears that government officials are hiding something, and they’re not about to give it up.
One of the many wonderful spook tricks is to designate files as “Not Believed Relevant.” Among those so designated when the House Assassinations Committee investigated in the 1970s, we later learned, were files on the Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko. He had claimed to have been in charge of the KGB’s Oswald files; and on the Cuban Revolutionary Council, a CIA front group set up by the ubiquitous master planner E. Howard Hunt that was connected in multiple ways to the Oswald story.
“Not Believed Relevant”? We’ll take one of each of those documents, please.
Amazingly, the CIA under George W. Bush may turn out to be more compliant than Obama’s “open government” advocates. In 2004, on Bush’s watch, the Agency voluntarily agreed to accelerate the release of postponed JFK assassination documents, and did indeed release some early.
By contrast, in the spring of 2012, three DC attorneys with long experience in litigating Freedom of Information cases expressed their disappointment with Obama in an opinion piece. They noted that the Department of Justice under Eric Holder seems willing to go to bat for any and every agency and department that wants to withhold information.
Open Government Plans….So Where’s the Open Government?
On his first day in office, President Obama signed a government-wide directive–widely reported by the media—establishing a whole new level of commitment to openness and transparency.
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