This is Sunshine Week in America, dedicated to bringing the issues of secrecy and open government before the American people and the government. 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.
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.
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.
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, 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, is no longer being enforced. Since the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) dissolved in 1998, its 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.
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 and other government agencies 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!