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Sunshine Week 2012 & JFK Records


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Sunshine Week and JFK Assassination Records

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If Sunshine Week is when we take time to recognize that a democracy requires an open and transparent form of government in whichinformation is shared equally among the citizens and those civil servants elected to run the machinery of power, then it is also a time when we should look more closely at the government's records on the assassination of President Kennedy.

While there is a need for secrets, there is no need to keep any government records on the assassination of the President secret fifty yearsafter his murder other than to protect those responsible for the crime and cover-up.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

President Kennedy himself said, "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open public and we are, as a free people, inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweigh the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of aclosed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it."

And one of those traditions of an open society is an open and transparent government whose records belong to the people who paid for them, and cannot be owned, censored or destroyed by those public servants who created them while employed by the government.

In response to the reluctance of government employees to make critical information available to the public, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the course of the post-Watergate era, but in doing so, the Representatives of the people in the legislative branch exempted themselves from having to comply with the law.

The public's distrust of the government didn't begin with Watergate however, as the Pew Public opinion poll has shown the public's trust in their government was at its highest in 1963, and began to decline with the assassination of President Kennedy and the issuing of the Warren Report, whose conclusion that the President was murdered by a lone assassin is disbelieved by 80% of the people.

The root of this distrust led Congress to establish the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which issued two reports that concluded there is evidence of conspiracy in both the assassinations o fPresident Kennedy and that of Martin Luther King, but as with all Congressional records, their investigative files were sealed for 50 years and were not subject to the FOIA.

Then 20 years ago, Oliver Stone's popular movie "JFK" sparked public interest in the sealed records. At the end of the film Stone noted that: "A Congressional Investigation from 1976 - 1979 found a 'probable conspiracy' in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and recommended the Justice Department investigate further. As of1991, the Justice Department has done nothing. The files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations are locked away until the year 2029."

In response to the public outcry against the secret files Congress passed the JFK Act of 1992 that required all government agencies to relinquish their records on the assassination of President Kennedy to the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) for screening to be made available to the public subsequently through the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Congress refused however, to include the HSCA records on the assassination of Martin Luther King, which prompted Oliver Stone to ask if hehad to make a movie about King's murder before they would release those records. Apparently so, because they remain sealed.

While the ARRB reviewed and released many millions of pagesof documents and other records, many thousands or more were kept sealed until 2017, when the relevant agencies could request the President to continue keeping these records from public scrutiny, requests that could keep them from the public forever, or at least for our lifetime.

Among the JFK assassination records the CIA refuses to make public are the George Joannides files that document the CIA's relationship to the Cuban DRE group that the accused assassin associated with in New Orleans.They were not included among the records of the JFK Act, but are however, the subject of an ongoing FOIA suit (Morley v. CIA). After overseeing the CIA's relationship with the Cubans, Joanides was called out of retirement to keep a lid on the HSCA investigation. Besides the Joannides files, the CIA has withheld over 50,000 pages of JFK assassination related records.

In addition, the FBI, Secret Service, the Army, Air Forceand Office of Naval Intelligence have intentionally destroyed or attempted todestroy assassination records that they never wanted to reach the public eye.

Other significant records, such as the unedited tapes of AirForce One radio communications and the complete office files of Admiral RufusTaylor, the Director of Naval Intelligence (ONI), have completely disappeared from the archives of the government.

Most disheartening is the bipartisan refusal of the House Oversigh tCommittee to hold public hearings on these issues, determine how many assassination records remain sealed, what became of the missing records and who was responsible for the destruction of so many significant historic documents and evidence in the murder of the president.

While Sunshine Week may rightly call attention to the need for local and state governments to open their meetings and accounting records to the public, and for the federal government to keep the public informed, there is no other open records issue more important than the release of the JFKassassination records to the public.

The 1963 assassination of the President sparked the public's distrust in the government, the Warren Report began the official whitewash of the crime, and the sealing of the assassination records from public scrutiny ensures today that the total truth will remain hidden and that justice will never be served.

If any relevant open government issue is to be discussed because of Sunshine Week, the acceleration of the release of the JFK Assassination records should take a priority, and the strong public support fo rthe JFK Act nearly 20 years ago should now be rallied once again to require the release of the remaining government records on the assassination before the 50th anniversary on November 2013.

As Leonard Bernstein noted there is strong institutional resistance to this when he said, "We don't dare confront the implications. Ithink we've all agreed there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and we just don't want to know the complete truth. It involves such powerful forces in what we call high places that if we do know, everything might fall apart."

But there are strong enough reasons to open the records. On the day before he was assassinated, Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Geradi Conedera said, "The root of humanity's down fall and disgrace comes from the deliberate opposition to truth. To open ourselvesto the truth and to bring ourselves face to face with our personal and collective reality is not an option that can be accepted or rejected - it is an undeniable requirement of all people and all societies that seek to humanize themselves and to be free...Truth is the primary word, the serious and mature action that makes it possible for us to break the cycle of death and violence and open ourselves to a future of hope and light for all…Discovering the truth is painful, but it is without a doubt a healthy and liberating action."

Edited by William Kelly
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  • 1 year later...

Not much has changed.

JFKfacts » JFK remains in the shade during Sunshine Week

JFK Assassination Records and Sunshine Week 2013

This is Sunshine Week in America, dedicated to bringing the issues of secrecy and open government before the American people and the government.

As they explain on the website http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/, “the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002. In June 2003, the American Society of Newspaper Editors hosted a Freedom of Information Summit in Washington where the seeds for Sunshine Week were planted. Sunshine Week began in March 2005 with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The non-partisan, non-profit initiative is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.”

That’s the question the JFK Act of 1992 asked in regards to the government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It’s time for Sunshine Week to shine its light on the still-classified records on the assassination of President Kennedy. I have been trying to do so since 2002 with little success.

Why advocates of open government shy from the JFK story is an important and interesting question.

While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been rightly touted at previous Sunshine Week forums, this year is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 20th anniversary of the JFK Act of 1992, which forced the release of more records (4 million pages) than any other single law.

We originally began to lobby Congress to release the records of the HSCA, and received little support, but after the public response to Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, Congress reluctantly but unamously passed the JFK Act of 1992, which called for the release of not only the records of the HSCA investigation, but All of the government records related to the assassination, including those of the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and White House Communications Agency, among other agencies of government.

The five members of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) were recommended by independent historical and archival associations and were chosen for their lack of government ties, but after the review board issued its final report and disbanded, the JFK Act was no longer enforced despite being in effect until the last government record on the assassination is declassified and open to the public in the JFK Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at Archives II.

That is scheduled to occur in October 2017, but if appealed to the president, as expected, it could be delayed indefinitely, and for the most significant records, won’t ever happen because they have already been intentionally destroyed or have gone missing, simply can’t be found, and there’s no one looking for them or prosecuting those who illegally destroyed records because the JFK Act is not being enforced by anyone.

Although Kennedy’s assassination remains a topic of wide public interest, and the JFK Records Act is a landmark in open government law, many journalists, historians and civil activists greet the mention of the secret records on the Kennedy assassination with silent dismay, if not moans of protests and rolling of the eyes. For these people, the JFK story is akin to popular interest in UFOs and other amusing irrationalities.

Actually, the legally unresolved and unsolved homicide of the President, as Jim Hougan has pointed out (when he signed the petition to release the remaining assassination records), is an issue of national security of the first order — there is no other matter more significant than the murder of the president; It is the key political and historical issue of our time.

JFK records are also a live issue in full disclosure law.

The JFK Records Act, passed unanimously in 1992, has not been enforced since the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) dissolved in 1998. It’s recommendations have gone unheeded, especially the one requesting that the historical and archival associations that recommended them continue to conduct oversight of the law. Congress has failed to hold any oversight hearings on the JFK Act in over 15 years and shows no inclination to do so.

At one of the last Congressional hearings, Oliver Stone was asked what he expected to find in the JFK assassination files, he said he expected them to be like a Mercedes Benz left on a street in Harlem for many years – stripped of its essentials, but still recognizable as a Mercedes. But the point being it is OUR Mercedes, the government records belong to the people and not some secret agency or department of government, they are our history and not theirs. That’s the issue.

Sunshine Week and the approaching 50th anniversary of the assassination offer an opportunity to shift discussion from the Single Bullet Theory, the Zapruder film and other minutiae of the crime, to the larger and more relevant issue of governmental secrecy. If there is any body of government records that demands the sunshine of disclosure it is the government’s still-secret JFK assassination records.

Open government advocates may not know it but many important Pentagon and Secret Service files related to JFK’s death were destroyed rather than revealed publicly.

Some are missing — including the original recording of communications between Air Force One on November 22, 1963.

More than 1,100 CIA records related to the assassination are still classified and could be withheld for ever, at least for our lifetime. These include files of CIA officers who had pre-assassination knowledge of the travels, politics and contacts of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

If the JFK was killed by a deranged lone nut, why are so many records from 1963 considered so significant in 2012? Why were records destroyed? Who ordered their destruction? Where are the Air Force One tapes? Why can’t they be found? Why are so many CIA documents about undercover officers with pre-assassination knowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald classified for reasons of national security? Why doesn’t Congress oversee the JFK Records Act? Why don’t they hold public hearings on these issues and get answers to these questions?

These are questions that the organizers of Sunshine Week need to take up.

What can you do to convince them to act?

Sign the petition to Free the JFK files and pass it on to others you know.

Write a letter to your Congressman, especially if they are on the House Oversight Committee, and ask them why they don’t hold public oversight hearings of the JFK Act? Then email it, post it on their Facebook page as well as your Congressman’s page, fax it to their home and DC offices and then email it by US Mail with a request for a response.

Join our Facebook Focus Group, Release JFK Assassination Records Now!

Edited by William Kelly
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