Jump to content
The Education Forum

"Is the Government Holding Back Crucial Documents?"

Recommended Posts

Good Day.... FYI....



Is the Government Holding Back Crucial Documents?

(by Russ Baker)

WhoWhatWhy May 30, 2012, 1:41 PM

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(1), 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(2) 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(3).

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(4) was responsible for JFK’s death.)

ARRC’s letter(5) 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(6), doing the right thing? With all the secrets(7) 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(8). 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(9) –widely reported by the media—establishing a whole new level of commitment to openness and transparency. The administration has made some real strides. But arguably not on the most sensitive—and hence most important—matters.

On April 9, federal agencies were supposed to post updates to their Open Government Plans, this according to Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, writing on the White House blog(10). Some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, did so. But others, such as the Department of Labor(11), did not(12) —and still have not. NARA is one of those that has not complied.

As the expression goes, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Opening up the nooks and crannies of government to public view was supposed to aid the process of discovering and rooting out the rot. This would, we were assured, help return Washington to the people. Obama selected Sunstein, a Harvard professor and old friend, to oversee this effort.

Not long ago, when I asked to discuss this with Sunstein, I was told he was “not available” for interviews.

Here’s the exchange:

From: Russ Baker

Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:12 PM

To: Sunstein, Cass R.

Subject: interview request

Mr. Sunstein, wonder if I might be able to do a phone interview with you about Open Records policy?

From: Strom, Shayna L.

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:25 PM

To: Russ Baker

Subject: FW: interview request

Unfortunately, Administrator Sunstein is unavailable for an interview. That said, you might try the Archivist of the United States at NARA? Best of luck!



From: Russ Baker

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:33 PM

To: Strom, Shayna L.

Subject: RE: interview request

Is he generally unavailable for interviews? What is the policy on that? Seems relevant given that this is about open government.

From: Strom, Shayna L.

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 5:00 PM

To: Russ Baker

Cc: Mack, Moira K.

Subject: RE: interview request

No, he’s not generally unavailable—but the Archivist is intimately involved in one of our big open government initiatives (records modernization), so he’s just a particularly good person to speak to on this.

So the person in charge of the overall governmental effort on open records wants me to talk to the person running one of the agencies that is….having difficulties complying with the spirit if not letter of Obama’s announcement.

No Mr. Sunshine, That Mr. Sunstein

Actually, Sunstein has good reason to lay low. Watch this slightly raw video(13) of someone confronting him about a paper he wrote(14) a few years ago. In it, he actually advocated “cognitive infiltration” of groups that espouse alternative views on controversial issues like the events of Sept. 11, i. e, conspiracy theories.

Here’s a quote from Sunstein’s paper:

(W)e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.

Sunstein is a sort of caricature of everything people don’t like and don’t trust about government. The fact that he’s in charge of “open government” speaks volumes.

Apparently not a great enthusiast for the Freedom of Information Act, Sunstein has said that judges are not qualified to second-guess executive branch decisions on what the public should or should not be told.

In light of this record, it’s useful to consider Sunstein’s broader mandate: to make government more efficient and accountable. Releasing records involves, in part, cutting red tape. Another aspect of cutting red tape is getting rid of bureaucracy. And that’s where things get even more interesting. Under cover of making government more accountable, Sunstein gets to push for elimination of regulations that corporations find onerous. Here’s a Washington Post article on Sunstein holding up (for more than a year) food safety legislation that the industry doesn’t like.

What’s going on here? Why the seeming shift away from Obama’s initial commitment to openness? One attorney involved with these matters says he suspects this may be traceable to Obama’s order, shortly after he took office, to release many of the so-called “torture memos.” The President seemed taken aback by vociferous public demands that he prosecute the torturers—a perilous policy(15) due to internal resistance—and quickly shifted to favoring the intelligence community and restricting disclosure. As the attorney points out, the broader concept—that transparency leads to public awareness which in turn leads to demands for political changes—certainly does not sit well with dominant sectors in this country. Obama has hardly distinguished himself for seriously taking on those sectors. Maybe because he doesn’t want to, maybe because…he can’t. (For more on this, see our 2010 piece, “What Obama is Up Against.”(16))


NARA is now saying that the White House gave “small agencies” (meaning NARA) a June deadline for publishing its revised open government plan. But no White House postings support that claim. In any case, even if and when NARA becomes more responsive, don’t bet on the government releasing the most valuable JFK-related documents…in your lifetime.

By the way, here’s more on the new head of the Archives’ declassification center: “Ms. Shenberger served as a Branch Chief in the CIA Counter Terrorism Center between 2001 and 2003…” before being assigned declassification work for the Agency.

That’s very interesting—since one gets the sense that the Agency is not eager to release inside dope on the government’s astounding failures relating to one particular date in 2001.



(1) http://naraopengov.ideascale.com/

(2) http://articles.bost...ernment-files/3

(3) http://www.archives....10/nr10-98.html

(4) http://www.history-m...eport_0016a.htm

(5) http://www.aarclibra...es_12-01-20.pdf

(6) http://whowhatwhy.co...ent-bush-again/

(7) http://www.amazon.co...ASIN=B003NSBMNA

(8) http://www.law.com/j...ment&slreturn=1

(9) http://www.whitehous...pen_Government/

(10) http://www.whitehous...rnment-plans-20

(11) http://www.openthego...t.org/node/3449

(12) http://www.openthego...t.org/node/3422


(14) http://papers.ssrn.c...ract_id=1084585

(15) http://whowhatwhy.co...reats-to-obama/

(16) http://whowhatwhy.co...-is-up-against/

Best Regards in Research,


Donald Roberdeau

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, CV-67, plank walker

Sooner, or later, The Truth emerges Clearly

For your considerations....

Homepage : President KENNEDY "Men of Courage" speech, and Assassination Evidence,

Witnesses, Suspects + Outstanding Researchers Discoveries and Considerations.... http://droberdeau.bl...ination_09.html

Dealey Plaza Map : Detailing 11-22-63 Victims precise locations, Witnesses, Films & Photos,

Evidence, Suspected bullet trajectories, Important information & Key Considerations, in One Convenient Resource.... http://img831.images...dated110110.gif

Visual Report : "The First Bullet Impact Into President Kennedy: while JFK was Still Hidden

Under the 'magic-limbed-ricochet-tree' ".... http://img504.images...k1102308ms8.gif

Visual Report : Reality versus C.A.D. : the Real World, versus, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out.... http://img248.images...ealityvscad.gif

Discovery : "Very Close JFK Assassination Witness ROSEMARY WILLIS Zapruder Film

Documented 2nd Headsnap:

West, Ultrafast, and Directly Towards the Grassy Knoll".... http://educationforu...?showtopic=2394

T ogether

E veryone

A chieves

M ore

For the United States:



Edited by Don Roberdeau
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Of course, they are still withholding back documents we want to read.

Now, the National Declassification Center held an open forum and told us how wonderful they were, and they told us they were going to release 400 million pages of documents, and what should they concentrate on? And the people said, "JFK!" And apparently, they didn't like that. Well, cry me a river.

So, David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, was interviewed by the Boston Globe, and he decided to lie. He decided to think of the public as a bunch of screwballs, that all they want are JFK, and UFO crap.

I applaud Russ Baker for pointing out that no, actually, no one brought up UFO's at all in the public forums the National Declassification has had. I was only told of the existence of one of them, the first one, and I made a transcript of that forum on my blog. See - http://justiceforkennedy.blogspot.com/2010/07/transcrit-of-ndc-first-open-forum.html

UFO does not appear in that transcript, not even once, not at all.

Mr. Archivist decided he liked UFO people better, you know, if he had to decide between the two, for he goes on to tell how he went to MIT, the world class engineering school, you know, where all the archivists come from. Well, the article points out that MIT may have gotten letters about UFO's. However, requests for records on them did not occur at the open forums.

But then Baker gets sloppy.

The records JFK assassination researchers want declassified are records that have already been reviewed by the JFK Act, and the ARRB. The 400 million records that the NDC people want to declassify do not really deal with the subject of the JFK assassination, as such, but are part of a much larger, systemic problem of the abusive over classification subculture of our National Security state. I think Ferriero wanted the work of the NDC to be seen as something addressing that problem. That the public wanted it as a tool to address JFK assassination records, as a priority, or to deal with those records within this 400 million record figure and the fight against overclassification first, I think, annoyed him.

In a way, the NDC, reminds me somewhat of the Occupy movement. It’s trying to address a large national problem, really several large national problems that have persisted for decades and has many, many facets, yet it seems absolutely clueless in how it wants to fight any or all of them. Neither group has an effective, charismatic leader with broad popular support. And neither group seems to have the legal authority to actually address the problem. The problem seems so large that neither the NDC, nor the Occupy movement can prioritize or come up with a coherent message in how it wants to address the problems it sees. Neither the Occupy movement, nor the NDC can really come up with a coherent paragraph to describe exactly what the hell they are in the first place, let alone what it really wants to do.

The real numbers game isn’t how many times Ferriero can claim he’s been asked about UFO’s. It’s about how many records the NDC will actually release. I do not believe the 400 million records number thrown out there that will, ought to be, should be, could be, might be released by 2013. There are just too many people, at too many agencies, with too much power, with too many stamps, stamping things classified, secret, and top secret, and code name secret, that in a suprising number of cases they don’t actually have any legal authority to do so, who do so anyway, and those decisions are left as valid and proper for someone else, some other law, some other agency to try to address in some fashion, some other year or decade, or several decades later.

I can believe the numbers in how many records are improperly classified. I can believe numbers in how wasteful it is to house and store classified records. I can believe how little is budgeted in dollars and manpower in attempts to get records declassified.

I don’t think it’s accurate or helpful to refer to Sheryl Shenberger as a SPOOK. Can’t it be just as likley that actually she’s a very nice person, and the CIA’s the problem?

The rest of Baker’s piece is a sloppy attempt to sumarize Obama’s history on openness and transparency. This topic is too large for any summary and should be, probably is a subject for a book or two. I think Baker loses the focus of the article by going into this. Anyone paying attention to the email updates from Secrecy News from the Federation of American Scientists, or an avid listener of Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” radio progrsm can do a better job commenting on Obama’s failure at open government. It’s not just a flip-flop on the issue, but strong support against open government, and whistle blowers in the wake of Wikileaks and the greatest increase in prosecutions against whistle blowers and those who divulge information to the press in the nation’s history.

A case in point is yesterday's email from Secrecy News:


Secrecy News stated yesterday that the decline in the number of pages reviewed for declassification last year (as reported by the Information Security Oversight Office) means that the goal set by President Obama of reviewing the entire backlog of 25 year old historical records by December 2013 will not be achieved.

But that is not correct, an Archives official said. Progress in reducing the backlog is independent of progress in conducting declassification review since only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of pages of backlogged records require formal declassification "review." (In theory, at least, most of them have already been "reviewed," and reported as such in previous ISOO reports).

Instead of being "reviewed" for declassification, the official said, the backlogged records are being "assessed" for the presence of exempted information (such as "Restricted Data," RD or " Formerly Restricted Data "FRD), in which case they will not be released. The records are also undergoing "declassification processing" for public access. But not "declassification review." Only in a minority of cases are backlogged records being referred for "declassification review."

We regret adding confusion to an already confusing situation.

In contrast to our somber view of the contents of the new ISOO annual report, the National Archives issued a rather upbeat press release on the report.

But the Archives press release does not mention that total declassification activity declined in 2011 from the year before, which seems like a significant omission.

As to whether the President's December 2013 deadline for elimination of the backlog of historical records will be met, with or without "review," it is hard to be optimistic.

The National Declassification Center stated in its last semi-annual report that the diversion of resources necessary to screen for Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data in the backlogged records "will certainly impact our ability to complete all declassification processing by the deadline."

But it would be a mistake to anticipate failure, the Archives official said, adding "It's not over until it's over."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Without meaning to devalue post which I think makes out an important point.

I think it a mistake to (and I don't look for an argument here. If we disagree we disagree) in seeing the Occupy movement as a similarity. It's evolving. It'ss getting broader and more focused probably because of its organisational structure. The latest Chicago Nato protest for example as well as the expected brutal police response. It's a diverse globally popular process. This guy and his UFO (non)stuff is not.


Edited by John Dolva
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...