Judge who curbed the NSA will decide on my JFK records lawsuit

Judge Richard Leon, who yesterday challenged the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program, has been hearing my FOIA lawsuit, Morley v. CIA, for the last ten years.

The Times says Judge Leon has a record of wrestling with the government — but not so much when it comes to secrecy claims for ancient JFK assassination records held by the CIA.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon,

Judge Richard Leon

I filed my lawsuit  ten years ago today, on December 17th, 2003. In the decade since, Judge Leon has almost never done what he did yesterday: question the government’s rationale of “national security” as a justification for secrecy.

In September 2006 Judge Leon dismissed my case saying I had not produced “a scintilla of evidence” to support one of my claims. In December 2007, the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed his decision.

While hearing my many arguments that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compels release of the files of deceased CIA officer George Joannides, Judge Leon has mostly deferred to the counterarguments of the Justice Department lawyers who repeat the CIA’s far-fetched claim that releasing the details of Joannides’s actions in New Orleans in 1963 will damage U.S. national security in 2013.

One last decision

Now Judge Leon faces one last decision in Morley v. CIA: should the government be compelled to pay the costs of the litigation, estimated by my attorney Jim Lesar to run in excess of $200,000?

The CIA and the Justice Department say no, that the litigation has produced no information of public benefit and that I should not be compensated for legal fees. The government’s attorneys have argued that my motive in filing the lawsuit was financial — to obtain the Joannides files directly from the government so that I wouldn’t have to paying photocopying charges at the National Archives.

Joannides medal

Retired CIA officer George Joannides (left) received the Career Intelligence Medal from deputy CIA director Bobby Ray Inman on July 15, 1981.
(Photo credit: CIA)

In response, I have said that the litigation has produced information about the JFK assassination story that benefits the public, such as:

— The revelation that Joannides maintained a residence in New Orleans around the time his network of Cuban students were publicizing the pro-Castro activities of Lee Harvey Oswald

— A photograph, displayed here, showing that Joannides received a CIA medal in 1981, three years after he misled the House Select Committee on Assassinations about what he knew of Oswald’s Cuban contacts in the months before JFK was killed

The CIA denies the Career Intelligence Medal was bestowed for Joannides’s JFK-related duties but won’t release a 1981 memo that explains why Joannides was honored.

As for the notion that Jim Lesar and I spent ten years in court with the CIA in order to save ourselves copying costs, well, that can only be described as a comical conspiracy theory. I would laugh except that the lawyers who composed that nonsense are paid by the U.S. taxpayers, i.e., you and me. I hope Judge Leon will not be swayed by such a bogus argument.

Judge Leon’s decision in the NSA case, which I think was correct and courageous, gives me hope about my case.

In our recent motion in the case, Lesar called the judge’s attention to the widespread news coverage of the Joannides story ranging from Fox News and the New York Times to the San Angelo Times in south Texas and the Daily Mail in London. If the judge needs evidence of public benefit of the litigation he has it.

I look forward his decision.






  1. TLR says:

    He was appointed by Bush, whose father was a former CIA Director. I would not hold my breath waiting for him to rule in your favor.

  2. D. Olmens says:

    “The government’s attorney have argued that my motive in filing the lawsuit was financial–to obtain the Joannides files directly from the government so that I wouldn’t have to paying photocopying charges at the National Archives.”

    That is an absurd argument.

  3. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    If your litigation has not benefitted the public, hundreds and thousands would not be aware of the CIA-DRE connection. The CIA’s claim of Oswalds Mexico City/Cuba trip would not be one of the Hot topics in JFK assassination forums. I never would have met Scott Kaiser who’s father was involved in related events (who speaks often with Antonio Veciana). I wouldn’t have discovered that Jack Ruby intended to go to Cuba using the same route through Mexico City that the CIA claimed Oswald took. I wouldn’t have learned that Ruby wrote a letter from jail telling his brother Earl to do the same. I wouldn’t have found “The Portal to Texas History” website (home for Dallas PD and JFK Memorial online evidence collections and passed the info on to hundreds of interested people). So Mr. Leon…please don’t tell me there has been no public benefit. Without this litigation I wouldn’t have learned of the witholding of Oswalds ONI files, or of the witholding of Volume 14 of the Texas Investigation of the JFK assassination and wounding of J.Connally…and the list goes on and on. America has every right to expect transparency from an agency who is high up on the suspect lists, BEFORE all of the living witnesses pass on. No American should have to carry the burden of this requested transparency, in the face of repeated deceptions by the CIA. It is not the job of government to block the will of the people but rather to adhere to it.

  4. George Simmons says:

    Good luck Jeff.
    There are many who support your courageous efforts.

  5. bogman says:

    Hopefully someone is alerting the media to this. It would be an interesting follow-up story I would think — national security secrets that never seem to die. If you need a good PR guy, let me know.

  6. Larry Schnapf says:

    Perhaps we should encourage amicus brief be filed by other open gov organizations?

  7. DR says:

    Doesn’t look good.
    Here’s a devestating takedown of Judge Leon by Robert Parry, including how Leon helped cover up “The October Suprise” and Iran-Contra:


  8. Ronnie Wayne says:

    May the Honorable Judge be Judged highly by History for a decision favorable to the knowledge of the Citizens of the United States in their Government. That they may have faith in it to tell them the truth in this matter.

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