By Lisa Pease
October 23, 2007
In this guest essay, historian Lisa Pease comments on how the CIA still is subverting the intent of the JFK Records Act:
The CIA is withholding key documents in the JFK assassination case.
As Jefferson Morley reports in the Huffington Post:
"Lawyers for the Central Intelligence Agency faced pointed questions in a federal court hearing Monday morning about the agency's efforts to block disclosure of long-secret records about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy."
Morley filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA for failing to disclose records about a CIA officer named George Joannides. Joannides was responsible for running the DRE, an anti-Castro CIA front group that had extensive interactions with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy.
The CIA has consistently refused to release Joannides' records, even though they are mandated to by the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act.
What's at stake here matters greatly to all historians. If the government can simply choose which records to release, and which to withhold, they can pervert and deliberately misshape history to serve their purposes.
In this particular case, the CIA appears hellbent on ondoing the will of the people. The JFK Act came into being due to an enormous outcry from the public when they learned, at the end of Oliver Stone's film JFK, that many records relating to the assassination were still classified.
Congress passed what became known as "The JFK Act," which mandated the creation of a board to declassify records and, if necessary, seek out new and pertinent records and make them public.
The Board, officially named the Assassination Records and Review Board, put Joannides on the JFK assassination story map when it declassified five personnel reports of his in 1998. In addition, researchers learned that it was Joannides who had helped shut down an early investigation of the CIA's possible involvement in the assassination.
Joannides was responsible for kicking out two staffers of the House Select Committee on Assassinations who had been set up with full access at CIA to CIA records pertaining to that time period. When the records they dug up got more interesting in terms of suggesting possible CIA involvement in a plot to kill Kennedy, Joannides had the two staffers removed from their temporary office at CIA headquarters.
Morley discusses why Joannides records are of interest:
"Oswald approached the DRE's delegation in New Orleans and offered to train guerrillas to fight the Castro government. He was rebuffed. When DRE members saw Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets a few days later an altercation ensued that ended with the arrest of all the participants.
"A week after that, the DRE's spokesman in New Orleans debated the Cuba issue with Oswald on a radio program. After these encounters, the DRE issued a press release calling for a congressional investigation of the pro-Castro activities of the then-obscure Oswald.
"The CIA was passing money to the DRE leaders at the time, according to an agency memo dated April 1963, found in the JFK Library in Boston. The document shows that the Agency gave the Miami-based group $250,000 a year -- the equivalent of about $1.5 million annually in 2007 dollars.
"The secret CIA files on Joannides may shed new light on what, if anything, Joannides and other CIA officers in anti-Castro operations knew about Oswald's activities and contacts before Kennedy was killed."
Morley has spent several years now trying to obtain these records, and his frustration is palpable. But his frustration should be ours, as it's our history that is being hidden from us.
If the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, wouldn't that change entirely our understanding of events from that time forth, and wouldn't that call into question much of the reporting on the case, and the credibility of the media from that time forward?
And aren't laws meant to be upheld? As Morley writes:
"In my admittedly subjective view, the JFK Records Act is being slowly repealed by CIA fiat. In defiance of the law and common sense, the Agency continues to spend taxpayers' money for the suppression of history around JFK's assassination. In the post-9/11 era, you would think U.S. intelligence budget could be better spent."
Several former members of the ARRB, including its chairman, filed affidavits in support of Morley's request. Even anti-conspiracy authors Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi have sided with the law, calling for the documents to be released.
If our government can simply choose which laws to support and which to break, is it really our government anymore?
For more information on Morley's suit, click here.
Lisa Pease is a historian who has studied the JFK assassination for many years. [Her article first appeared in Progressive Historians.]