Obama’s transparency policy too weak to force disclosure of 1944 document

Eyes wide shut: Obama’s transparency vision

From the NYTimes:

“When President Obama took office in 2009, he promised an ‘unprecedented level of openness in government.’ In a memo issued the day after his inauguration, he wrote, ‘The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.’”

When I first read those words in 2009, I took hope that the new president’s thinking would exercise a positive benefit on my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for the JFK assassination records of deceased CIA officer George Joannides.

At that point the CIA had been stonewalling my request for six years and I thought a new policy would remove barriers to disclosure.

I was naive. Obama’s fine words have had no practical effect on the CIA’s determination to keep the records I sought secret. The Agency’s reasoning on why the records had to be kept secret was based entirely on speculative fears.

The CIA and the Justice Department argued, for example, that declassifying any portion of an unclassified record about Joannides’s employment at the U.S. Post Office Censorship Office, dated October 3, 1944, would reveal “reveal internal CIA personnel rules and practices.” The document was originally unclassified, according to the CIA. This document was created three years before the CIA was created.

In short, the president’s open government policy was not strong enough to bring about the release of an unclassified 69-year-old document created by a civilian agency.

When the Times editorial page asks, “What Happened to Transparency?” I think the answer is obvious: Obama has allowed himself to be captured by the national security agencies and their secretive mentality.

Morley v. CIA

A court record from Morley v. CIA shows that the CIA is keeping secret a document dated Oct. 3, 1944.

 

Background:

CIA admits undercover officer lived in New Orleans (Nov. 11, 2013)

 5 Decades Later Some JFK FIles Still Sealed (Associated Press, Aus. 18. 2013)

Justice Dept. denies CIA officer was honored for coverup (JFK Facts,Dec. 17, 2012)

Court uphold public benefit of disclsoure about CIA officer in JFK story (JFK Facts, June 19, 2013)

CIA Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery (New York Times, October 17, 2009)

Morley v. CIA: Why I sued the CIA for JFK assassination records (JFK Facts, Feb. 23, 2013)

 

 

25 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    Obama has been criticized a lot. I imagine he therefore feels empathy for the FBI and the CIA. I imagine the CIA in particular understands his empathy.

    Funny how the system works. The system favors presidents who anger the American people and work against their interests.

    Consider GWB and Obama, both deeply unpopular presidents, who won a second term. I suspect future presidents will be interchangeable models of GWB and Obama. Deeply unpopular two-termers.

    Goes to show JFK was different. He was an evolving, exciting (to the young) president. He would have won in 1964 (speculation, but arguably supportable). Sorry, Jack. You might be a man of the people, the people of the world. The power guys in the U.S. loathed you.

  2. GM says:

    I am not sure Obama has been captured by the national security agencies. I think every president since Kennedy has been in fear of the military industrial complex in America. Kennedy was the last one to take them on, and challenge their then growing power. Obama’s extremely tepid reaction to the NSA spying scandal suggests that he is in fear of them.

    • TLR says:

      That’s exactly right. American Presidents are expected to be cooperative figureheads for the national security state, and if they aren’t they can expect trouble.

      One must not overlook the possibility of blackmail by the security agencies, who now have unprecedented access to everyone’s personal data. Everyone has something embarrassing in their life they want to keep hidden, and when you’re a public official you’re very vulnerable.

      J. Edgar Hoover’s problem was that he lived during a time when the mainstream media wouldn’t publish dirt about sex lives like they do now. So he had to be more careful in how he used it. When Admiral Thomas Moorer (chairman of the JCS) spied on Nixon and Kissinger, he was forced to have someone actually copy documents; today they would just intercept the e-mails and hack into computers.

      • D. Olmens says:

        “One must not overlook the possibility of blackmail by the security agencies, who now have unprecedented access to everyone’s personal data. Everyone has something embarrassing in their life they want to keep hidden, and when you’re a public official you’re very vulnerable.”

        Is there a public official in living memory who’s life has been more thoroughly dissected, debated and held up to public scrutiny than Obama? If there was dirt there somewhere it’s managed to remain hidden through the primaries, two Presidential elections, his term in office to date, and extraordinarily heated public debates on a number of issues. If the NSA could unearth something his opponents haven’t been able to find to date, and it’s not for want of looking, I think that would be rather surprising. And then they’d threaten him with it? Why and how? That all seems a little unlikely to me at this point in time.

        • TLR says:

          This is not really about Obama; I’m speaking generally about all elected officials. There are plenty of things we don’t learn about them until after they’ve left office or until they’ve died.

    • D. Olmens says:

      “I am not sure Obama has been captured by the national security agencies.”

      Me neither.

      “I think every president since Kennedy has been in fear of the military industrial complex in America.”

      What do you base that belief on?

      “Kennedy was the last one to take them on, and challenge their then growing power.”

      Really?

      “Obama’s extremely tepid reaction to the NSA spying scandal suggests that he is in fear of them.”

      Why would Obama fear the NSA? I’d argue a far more likely explanation is that Obama sees benefits or some kind of utility in the NSA’s activities. Thus he isn’t keen to roll back their activities too far. The end justifies the means. Not that I would agree with that, but I suspect things look a bit different from where he’s sitting.

      • Photon says:

        Presidents always look differently at security matters once they take office.
        It is principally a matter of receiving information not available at a lower level.
        Even a progressive like Barack Obama is willing to put long -held positions on the back burner If it means saving the lives of innocent Americans.
        It may not be ideal, but that is the world that we live in.

      • JSA says:

        “Kennedy was the last one to take them on, and challenge their then growing power.”

        Really?

        LBJ: Did J. Edgar Hoover’s bidding, brought on full scale involvement in Vietnam and supplied support for Dominican Republic coup, no questions asked. In my opinion was on board with plan to execute JFK and cover it up. Made sure WC was formed to implicate Oswald as sole, lone assassin. Used false fear of nuclear war to spur reluctant WC members to join and then coalesce around blaming Oswald alone. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King killed on his watch under very suspicious circumstances.

        RMN: Did J. Edgar Hoover’s bidding, feared CIA but felt he had a trump card with “the Bay of Pigs thing” which really was JFK assassination knowledge, tried to set up his own private executive branch intel but was counter-punched by Watergate set up.

        FORD: Probably put on the Nixon team to replace Agnew because Nixon felt he needed allies to the old Dulles and Pentagon team, and because he thought Ford too dumb to replace him if Watergate got out of control. Ford pardoned Nixon and was an old J. Edgar Hoover stooge, was wont to give intelligence whatever they wanted, tried to fight Senator Frank Church’s investigations into CIA abuses, put Rockefeller, another crony tied to big oil and intelligence, on as his Veep. George Bush Sr. made head of CIA, another with big oil, intelligence ties.

        Carter: An anomaly for sure, but quickly in over his head as he had no inside Washington experience, to quote from notables such as Martin Agronsky. Tried to hold the line on CIA by putting Admiral Stansfield Turner in charge, but never had control, lived in fear of losing everything when CIA’s old creation, the Shah’s Iran, collapsed with Dick Helms as its ambassador gone. Wrapped himself in the Rose Garden and the American flag to fend off liberal challenger Ted Kennedy.

        Reagan: Thought he could bring back the cavalry with people like Bill Casey, forging a tough, anything you want we’ll give it to you attitude towards CIA and the military. With Bush forcing his way onto the ticket, CIA had very friendly going during the Reagan years. Started to lose control during Iran-Contra scandal, but by then was ready to retire, and was replaced by:

        Bush Sr.: Ex-CIA chief, friendly to the intelligence agencies and the military, giving them carte blanche to go where they wanted to go. The recession and H. Ross Perot killed his chances for reelection however.

        Clinton: Began as a bit hostile to CIA and stuck his foot in his policy mouth with his okaying gays in the military, but quickly signed on to most of what CIA wanted, never threatened their power in any substantial way. Was seen as a bit of a downer by the military industrial complex for cutting back on the cold war military, but as even Bush Sr. had begun to scale back a bit late in his term, they knew they couldn’t get everything as they had under Reagan.

        Dubya: Does anyone doubt that this guy gave the military and intelligence everything they wanted: two wars, the biggest expansion known as Homeland Security since the late forties, and rendition, among other goodies?

        Obama: probably the only president since Carter to try to rein things in, but quickly overtaken by his inexperience. He did oppose the surge in Afghanistan however.

        Looking back, where DO you see any US president since Kennedy really trying to curtail intelligence? Maybe Carter, but I don’t see much more than that, and I’m being generous.

      • GM says:

        I base it on the fact that the CIA loathed Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs. You can hardly say the relationship changed for the better from then to the assassination. Kennedy also wanted to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces. The Kennedys hardly got on with Hoover any better…His JCS seemed to hate him as well. Why would Truman make the speech a month after the assassination if there were not serious concerns about the activities and role of the CIA?

        Why would Obama fear the American security state? Why would he not. The NSA is said to employ over 1 million people. That is a lot of hidden and secret power. To say that psychologically it would not feel ominous to a president is not tenable in my opinion.

  3. George Simmons says:

    When the CIA put forward George Joannides as liason to the HSCA without disclosing his role in 1963 to them it was a shocking and breathtaking act of deceit.
    If the CIA were trying to hide their own negligence and mistakes, rather than their involvement in the assassination, then according to the Presidents memo in this posting above the files should be released :
    “….merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed….”

    Are they refusing to release the files due to national security?
    I feel we would have to be very gullible to accept that after 50 years.
    George Blakey, chief counsel to the HSCA, said something regarding the CIA’s behaviour in relation to the JFK assassination which I agree with :
    “The law has long followed the rule that if a person lies to you on one point, you may reject all his testimony”.
    Due to the fact that the CIA broke the law in misleading an official investigation into the murder of JFK, I feel that I can no longer believe anything they tell us on this subject.

    • GM says:

      This argument about national security concerns 50 years after the assassination of JFK is curious. The Cold War ended over 20 years ago, the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, which had been America’s arch enemy until then. It seems that the American-Cuban relationship in on the brink of a major thaw, with the recent public recognition and handshake between Obama and Raoul Castro.

      In addition, if there was a plot to murder JFK, which is a distinct possibility given the plots in Chicago and Tampa before Dallas (and surely there can’t be a credible argument that Oswald would have carried out these attacks!), there can be little doubt that any other potential participants have died at least a good while ago. Therefore, there seems little reason why all the remaining files on the assassination should not be released now. I was reading Talbot’s book on the Kennedy brothers, and he suggests at the end of range of measures that could enable the full truth to be finally established (whatever that is). I think he suggested an immunity from prosecution for any witnesses to give any information they may have (particularly if they worked for government agencies). It sounds like a good idea, given the amount of time that has now passed since the assassination.

      • leslie sharp says:

        Uhhh, that’s a loaded proposal. Truth and reconciliation may be a path to take when the parties involved represent collectives, struggling to find a way to live with one another. This is a criminal murder case.

  4. Dan says:

    Whatever the explanation for what has happened, going forward the withheld JFK assassination records are a key test of open government policies. The fiftieth anniversary made clear the extremely high public interest in this subject. The best interests of the United States today are served by an open approach to these records, and to withhold them undermines confidence in the government. Our request to release these records is currently pending with the Public Interest Declassification Board of the National Archives.

  5. Tom says:

    He’s a company man.

  6. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    What has become transparent is that presidents — 50 years after a professionally-unacknowledged coup d’etat– are wall paper for the National Security State. To pretend otherwise is as necessary for employment is it is lethal for our children.

    • John Kirsch says:

      I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying presidents are “wallpaper” for the national security state. Those in charge of the national security state (not all of them American citizens) must go through the motions of following the rules required under what remains of our constitutional system.
      My sense is that the military-intelligence-industrial-academic-foreigner complex that comprises the national security state slipped the bounds of restraint decades ago.

  7. Brad Milch says:

    I find it ironic that in Abraham Lincoln’s day the primary moral struggle within the USA concerned enslavement of humans on American soil whereas now a major concern to many is the enslavement of history that belongs to the People of the United States; mysterious on its face because that said history is known by a few yet unreleased to the citizens for them to also know.

    President Obama is missing a noble opportunity to step into President Lincoln’s shoes & grant a similar freedom for Americans by not bringing this issue of JFK transparency to closure. If he leaves it for his successor to face Mr. Obama mimics his rival that received so much criticism from him initially: George W. Bush.

    I believe Jeff Morley & his supporters should consider posting brief videos on YouTube & Dailymotion explaining the situation. LN David Von Pein practically floods YouTube weekly by posting & re-posting his same videos; Jeff’s supporters might consider a similar approach.

  8. Brad Milch says:

    Enslavement. The very opposite of democracy. How does one deal with it? This is the issue President Obama faces with non-transparency in the unreleased JFK & RFK documents. A majority of US citizens had enough faith in Mr. Obama to elect him leader of the entire USA; let’s give him a chance to deal with historical slavery on the grandest scale ever seen by US citizens born within the years JFL was murdered and after. We’ve seen what passed before; let’s give the man a chance to deal with it now before we judge.

  9. Jonathan says:

    I didn’t vote for Obama (or his main opponent), but when when he won in 2008 I believed he would bring needed change to government. Good thing I didn’t old my breath.

    In my politically aware life, he is my number one disappointment for a politician. Given that I rate politicians far below used car sales people, that’s perhaps not much of a disappointment; and it isn’t.

    But he really sticks it in the eye of the American people on a lot of matters; especially those dealing with government secrets and secrecy. His speech this last Friday about reforming the NSA was empty of substance. His administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than GWB’s. I have no hope Obama will do a damn thing to unveil the CIA’s secret JFK files.

    I believe the best hope, at least in the short run, is the courts.

    There is litigation pending to pry loose the last volume of the CIA IG’s critique of the CIA in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The CIA, of course, does not want to reveal what is sure to be a scathing rebuke of how certain CIA officials behaved. Officials like Richard Bissell and perhaps Allen Dulles. A judge considering the litigation has pointed out that the proceedings of the 1787 Constitution Convention were only sealed for 30 years and that presidential papers are sealed today for only 12 years.

    I trust the courts far more than I trust the executive branch or congress.

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Thanks again Jonathan, prescient points. The withholding of files by the CIA in relation to the Bay of Pigs is very important in relation to Jeff’s suit for the 1100 plus overall files they should release to their employers, The People of the United States of America.
      BTW, I don’t think Obama’s as disappointing as Tricky Dick.

  10. In this day and age I’m astounded that there are still morons who believe in the Warren Commision.In his book about O.J.Vincent Bugolisi makes the point “multiple coincidences do not happen in homicide cases”.Then he writes 2000 pages saying they do.Please vote.Is Bugolisi (A)insane (B)suffering from fever(C)a hopeless bigot(D)has a need for attention.The chance that Oswald could do that shooting with a 23year old gun with a defective scope and do it with magic bullets and fool a nitrate test and the closest witnessis about 10,000,000,000,000 to 1.

  11. Brennan was 100 feet awaw and had poor eyesight.James Worrel was 50 feet and to close to see much.Amos Euinswas 75 feet away but had the best view and had good eyesight.He said the shooter had a bald spot like Billy Lovelady but he’s ignored by the lone-nutters because he’s black.Not only incredibly stupid also seriously bigoted.

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