After Trump’s broken promise, 15,834 JFK files remain secret

Last October 26, President Trump was a happy tweeter:


Today, after Trump’s April 26 document dump, journalists, researchers, and historians face a different reality.

According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s analysis of the  National Archives JFK database, 15,834 assassination files, most of them from the CIA, will not be released until 2021, if then. Sad!

Why Secrecy?

Some of the redactions are obtuseness dictated by bureaucratic necessity.

In the file of decorated officer David Phillips, the agency redacts the fact that it maintains a station in the Dominican Republic. But Phillips wrote about the D.R. station in his memoir, The Night Watchwhich was approved for publication by the CIA.

This sort of redacting is what CIA veterans do in their sleep: keep secrets, even if they’re not secret.


Other redactions are politically motivated. Say you have an question like: “Where does the CIA have offices in the United States?”

The answer is–and is not–found in this newly-declassified 1975 memo from the file of J. Walton Moore, the CIA’s man in Dallas in 1963.

CIA hides US offices

In new JFK files, the CIA censors the names of the U.S. cities where it had offices in the 1970s.

Why keep such a secret in 2018?

Because the agency’s leadership doesn’t want to talk about its activities on U.S. soil. Revealing the cities where CIA has offices wouldn’t hurt U.S. national security. But it might raise questions on Capitol Hill, questions that director-nominee Gina Haspel doesn’t want to answer at her confirmation hearings.

So the agency–and, alas, the president–say we’re not allowed to know where CIA does business in the United States.

JFK Questions

Say have you had a more precise JFK question like, Who was Robert Zambernardi?

Zambernardi manned the CIA’s photographic observation post outside the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City in 1963. The consulate was visited by accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald six weeks before JFK was killed, an incident which deputy CIA director Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief James Angleton concealed from the Warren Commission.

(The lie, a keystone of the CIA’s JFK coverup, is found on p. 10 of  this January 1964 Helms Memo to Warren Commission.)

The CIA always denied it obtained a photograph of Oswald in Mexico City. Zambernardi was in a position to clarify the issue. His name comes up in the newly-released testimony of CIA translator Boris Tarasoff.

JFK Redacted:

JFK Redacted: What the CIA doesn’t want you to know.

The CIA (and Trump) don’t want anyone asking any questions about Zambernardi, or the surveillance of Oswald for that matter.

One reason for the secrecy to protect the “national security” of the United States. The other reason for secrecy is to keep voters and taxpayers ignorant of how secretive government agencies actually work.

JFK secrecy fails as the national security test but succeeds as civic disinformation.


  1. Tom says:


    I can see why the CIA doesn’t want anyone asking questions about Zambarnardi. On the other hand do you think Trump even knows who he is or what his role was? If Trump doesn’t know of him then why does he also not want anyone asking questions about him?

  2. As long as Sylvia Duran is alive, the CIA, for whom Duran was an asset, will withhold their final records and not embarrass the Mexican government. However, this is just an excuse to shield the CIA’s knowledge of Oswald’s time in Mexico City.

  3. Bill Banks says:

    All I know is in the brief excepts above. That said:

    My impression is that secret here is specific offices under Moore’s control.

    Likewise, “secret” above is that Phillips was Chief of Station in the DR immediately after Trujillo’s death.

    In contrast, continued sensitivity about photo coverage is interesting. Joint project with Mexico?

  4. david drewelow says:

    if i were a spy trying to capture nuclear or weapons programs information from los alamos, i would be much more cautious if a knew that the cia had a location in nearby santa fe. i would make sure i met with contacts away from that city. somehow i think that the cia has been given waivers on many limitations placed on them. a new generation of file-release approvers will gain stature in their personnel review reports by showing a tough,retentive side in post-snowden reaction days.

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