At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum For Assassination Records

 

Federal Judge John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), headlined an expert faculty this month in the nation’s capital advocating for compliance with the JFK Assassination Records Act’s deadline of release of President Kennedy’s death records.

John F. Kennedy side profile

The law, approved unanimously by Congress in 1992, mandates the release by Oct. 26 of all U.S. government records related to President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Experts at the March 16 forum at the National Press Club organized by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) estimated that some 3,600 documents remain secret, largely because of objections, obstruction or confusion by various agencies.

Judge Tunheim, now chief federal judge for Minnesota, keynoted a news conference at the forum’s beginning. He outlined the challenges his presidentially appointed commission overcame in reviewing and releasing some four million pages of assassination-related material in the 1990s. See: Transcript of Judge John Tunheim’s Remarks.

The complete conference aside from the opening welcome by this editor is available on a video by independent film maker Randolph Benson, producer/director also The Searchers and a speaker at the forum.

Part I (1:31:44 mins.) is here. That segment showed Forum and CAPA Chairman Dr. Cyril H. Wecht introducing Tunheim, as shown below.

Following that were remarks by historian and author Dr. John M. Newman, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigant and journalist Jefferson Morley and his attorney, James H. Lesar, president of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC).

Part II of the Benson film (here, at 1:38:34 mins.) began with “Next Steps in Fact-Finding” by speakers Lawrence Schnapf, a New York-based attorney and co-chair of the CAPA legal committee, and Lesar. The final panel was “Open Government In 2017: Researchers’ Guide To Documents, Witnesses & Freedom of Sunshine Week logoInformation.” The session focused on practical solutions to document research on topics beyond JFK research.
CAPA organized the news conference  The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) founded Sunshine Week to foster open government via events like this throughout the nation. All photos above were by Noel St. John except for the historical photo of President Kennedy.
 
 
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Updates

Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA), Benson’s JFK Film ‘The Searchers’ On Researchers Premieres July 4 On Web, Andrew Kreig, June 28, 2017. On the Fourth of July, 2017, The Searchers — The Story of Researchers of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy — will be released worldwide on Amazon Video Direct and Vimeo 

The Kennedy Motorcade In Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 (Historical photo via Associated Press)

Politico, Will Trump Release the Missing JFK Files? Philip Shenon, April 27, 2017. Unless the president intervenes, we’ll soon know more secrets about the Kennedy assassination. The nation’s conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is facing a momentous decision. Will President Donald Trump allow the public to see a trove of thousands of long-secret government files about the event that, more than any other in modern American history, has fueled conspiracy theories – the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy?

The answer must come within months. And, according to a new timeline offered by the National Archives, it could come within weeks. Martha W. Murphy, the Archives official who oversees the records, said in an interview last month that a team of researchers with high-level security clearances is at work to prepare the JFK files for release and hopes to begin unsealing them in batches much earlier than October – possibly as early as summer.

Beyond releasing the 3,600 never-before-seen JFK files, the Archives is reviewing another 35,000 assassination-related documents, previously released in part, so they can be unsealed in full. Short of an order from the president, Murphy said, the Archives is committed to making everything public this year: “There’s very little decision-making for us.”

President John F. Kennedy with Secret Service Director James Rowley in 1963

President John F. Kennedy with Secret Service Director James Rowley in 1963

JFKcountercoup, The Significance of the Still-Secret Secret Service 'Threat Sheets,' William Kelly, April 24, 2017. In his March Sunshine Week presentation at the National Press Club, Federal Judge John Tunheim called attention to the "Secret Service Threat Sheets for 1963" that the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) requested but the Secret Service wanted to keep secret. The former ARRB chairman said: “Actually, the Secret Service was probably the most difficult agency. They were the only one that tried to reclassify material after we took office to keep the information away from us. And it wasn’t information that was all that important.”

“They fought us on the Threat Sheets,” said Tunheim (shown in a photo by Noel St. John), “and they would be important since the President was assassinated that fall, so the Threat Sheets would be relevant, but they fought us on threat. And I’m not sure as to what actually happened there, because it was after we left office.”

It was quite common for the various agencies seeking to keep records secret to continue to withhold them until after the Review Board was out of business, even though they were required to sign off on a sworn statement agreeing to continue to turn over assassination records to the National Archives after the Review Board had ceased to exist.

Indeed, the Threat Sheets for 1963 would be important, and they most certainly are relevant to the assassination, should be in the JFK Collection at the National Archives and if still secret they should be released in October.

The Threat Sheets should give us some more information on John Martin as well as the suspects in threats made against the president in Chicago and Tampa in the weeks leading up to the assassination that Blaine was made aware of. When former Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden, who investigated the Chicago threats, called attention to the fact that the Secret Service had intentionally destroyed the Tampa Advance Reports, Blaine noted in his book that he wrote the Tampa Advance Reports and still had copy in a box under his bed. With that the NARA contacted Blaine and obtained the reports, copies of which were intentionally destroyed by the Secret Service to keep them from the ARRB and the JFK Collection.

On my request to the National Archives as to the current status of the Secret Service “Threat Sheets” referred to by Judge Tunheim, I received the following reply from Martha Murphy (NARA's JFK documents expert): "We were able to verify that we have summaries of USSS records, commonly referred to as "threat sheets", in our protected collection. These 400+ pages have been referred to USSS for review. These pages will be released no later than the October deadline unless the USSS files an appeal and the President upholds that appeal."

Shown above: The cover of "he Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency" by Philip H. Melanson and Peter Stevens (Basic Books, 2003).

Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), "JFK at 100: Forum: Transcript: Nate Jones of the National Security Archive, March 16, 2017, published April 24, 2017. At CAPA's Sunshine Week Conference, Nate Jones (shown in a file photo) described the current state of President Kennedy's assassination records disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and otherwise. The top of his remarks is excerpted below, with the full transcript available via the JFKcountercoup site edited by CAPA board member William Kelly.

Nate Jones: Thanks a lot, thanks for putting this on. It's great to be here today, my name is Nate Jones from the National Security Archive and despite the official sounding name, the National Security Archive is a non-profit that files thousands of FOIA and mandatory declassification review requests each year, and we fight to get previously classified information declassified and published.

That said, I am not an expert on JFK assassination, the main reason is because the field is already crowded with experts, you here. So generally the National Security Archive focuses other matters, but I'm happy to talk today about perhaps fighting for access to records, not least of which because the JFK records collection act was one of, if not the strongest, laws ever passed for disclosing records.

I have a few points that I'll go through and hit, and anything else we can talk about it in questions. So, what is needed today, or what we talked about earlier today, the JFK records collection act, is very important. The head of the government office of information service, which is in charge of bureaucrat in charge of collecting classifications government-wide. It's said on the record that government classifiers joked that they could classify a ham sandwich. The National Security Archive finally won a lawsuit for official CIA volume of Bay of Pigs history that the agency with the department justice lawyers argued to a judge and won, that its release could quote confuse the public, so it could remain secret. In this case we went to congress and congress actually passed the FOIA improvement act that, it is typically said that documents over 25 years can't use this pre-decisional exception anymore, so we won! But the executive branch didn't do it for us, just like the JFK Act, we had to go to congress, and congress had to actually pass a law, something that is rare, but these two anti-secrecy matters happened....

Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), "JFK at 100: Forum: Transcript: Adam Marshall of the Reporter's Committee for the Freedom of the Press, March 16, 2017, published April 24, 2017. At CAPA's Sunshine Week conference, Marshall (shown in a file photo) provided a how-to presentation on how to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The top of his remarks is excerpted below, with the full transcript available via the JFKcountercoup site edited by CAPA board member William Kelly.

Adam Marshall: Good afternoon, my name is Adam Marshall, I'm an attorney at the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press. Among other things, I participate in federal FOIA litigation and state public records litigation. That's about all I do. For those of you that are unaware that the Reporter's Committee is a non-profit based here, in Washington D.C., we primarily assist reporters and news organizations and all kinds of legal issues regarding the collection and dissemination of the news. My part in our organization's responsibilities is, like I said, is getting reported information from the government.

So I thought what I would tell you about, a little bit, because it is Sunshine Week, is the state of FOIA, which I'm sure you all already know, and also to talk a little bit about the recent amendments to FOIA that were brought in the 2016 updates. Then, finally to look forward a little bit in terms of what needs to be fixed with FOIA, so that we can get access to even more records....

Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To JFK Assassination

* Denotes major articles in this Readers Guide series

Dealey Plaza Panorama (Andrew Kreig Photo)At right is a photo by this editor in Dallas showing Dealey Plaza. The Texas Book Depository Building where Oswald worked is behind the row of trees. The car in the center lane is near the location of President Kennedy's limo at the time of his fatal shooting.

  1. Project Launches JFK Assassination Readers' Guide, Oct. 16, 2013.
  2. Project Provides JFK Readers Guide To New Books, Videos, Oct. 26, 2013. This is a list of new books and films in 2013.
  3. Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post Reviews of JFK Murder, Nov. 7, 2013. *
  4. Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Nov. 7, 2013.
  5. 'Puppetry' Hardback Launched Nov. 19 at DC Author Forum on ‘White House Mysteries & Media,'  Nov. 19, 2013.
  6. Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory, Nov. 27, 2013.
  7. JFK Murder Scene Trapped Its Victim In Kill Zone, Nov. 30, 2013.
  8. Project Lists JFK Assassination Reports, Archives, Videos, Events, Nov. 2, 2013. *
  9. JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Dec. 9, 2013. *
  10. JFK Murder Prompts Expert Reader Reactions, Dec. 19, 2013. Reactions to our Dec. 9 column. 
  11. Have Spy Agencies Co-Opted Presidents and the Press? Dec. 23, 2013. *
  12. Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears, May 26, 2014. *
  13. Experts To Reveal Secrets of JFK Murder, Cover-up at Sept. 26-28 DC Forum , Sept. 5, 2014. 
  14. Washington Post Still Selling Warren Report 50 Years Later, Sept. 22, 2014. *
  15. JFK Experts To Explode Myths, Sign Books In DC Sept. 26-28, Sept. 24, 2014.
  16. Former Cuban Militant Leader Claims CIA Meeting With Oswald Before JFK Killing, Sept. 27, 2014. *
  17. JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports, Oct. 15, 2014. *
  18. Dealey Plaza Picket Fence (Andrew Kreig Photo)Former House JFK Murder Prober Alleges CIA ‘Lied,’ Seeks Hidden Records, Oct. 18, 2014. *
  19. The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage, Nov. 11, 2014. *
  20. JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up, Nov. 24, 2014. *
  21. JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events, Nov. 28, 2014. *
  22. CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Dec. 1, 2014. *
  23. Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ, Jan. 2, 2014.
  24. Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You, March 17, 2015.
  25. Free Videos Show Shocking Claims About CIA, JFK Murder Probes, June 29, 2015.
  26. Pioneering Black Secret Service JFK Guard Abraham Bolden Warns Of Current Lessons, July 22, 2015.
  27. Understanding Hollywood-Style Presidential Propaganda From JFK To Trump, Aug. 18, 2015.
  28. Beware Of Wrong Conclusions From New CIA Disclosure On Oswald, Sept. 28, 2015.
  29. The JFK Murder Cover-Up: Your Rosetta Stone To Today’s News, Nov. 29, 2015.
  30. Austin Kiplinger, David Skorton: Two Civic Giants Going And Coming, Dec. 15, 2015.
  31. Trump Alleges Rafael Cruz Tie To JFK Murder Suspect Oswald, May 3, 2016.
  32.  Revelations Confirm Proof Of JFK, RFK Murder Cover-ups, Nov. 25, 2016.
  33. Top Experts To Assess JFK Murder Records, Revelations March 16, March 8, 2017.
  34. Speaker Program For March 16 Forum On Secret JFK Records, March 8, 2017.
  35. JFK Experts Advocate Compliance With Records Deadline, March 8, 2017.
  36. At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum For Assassination Records Release, March 23, 2017.