More missing JFK records: the vanishing Church Committee files

Frank Church
Sen. Frank Church

Rex Bradford has illuminates another batch of still-secret JFK records: the files of the Senate committee that conducted the most comprehensive review of U.S. intelligence operations ever.

If you want to understand, the ongoing JFK coverup, you will want to read Bradford’s deep dive on the Missing Church Committee transcripts. It is a useful antidote to the comforting illusion that “the government can’t keep a secret.”

The Church Committee, named after its ambitious liberal chairman, Senator Frank Church, also investigated the CIA’s response to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1975-76.

The missing Church Committee records confirm that the government is keeping secrets about:

  • U.S. intelligence operations in New Orleans in the summer of 1963;
  • about CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders; and
  • about how the FBI investigated JFK’s death.

While this information is kept secret in the name of “national security,” it extremely unlikely that there is much truly sensitive information in these thousands of pages of records. The release of this information would not endanger Americans. It would embarrass the government.

Lost and Found

The good news is that some of this material is scheduled to become public in October 2017, including:

  • Secret testimony of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton who suspected the KGB was behind JFK’s murder.
  • Interview with William Attwood, the State Department official who handled secret negotiations with Cuba at the time of JFK’s assassination.

The bad news is that a group of more important Church Committee records are missing altogether, namely the transcripts of closed-door interviews with the FBI supervisors who worked on the JFK case in 1963 and 1964.

All of these men are now dead, so their knowledge of how the assassination was investigation cannot be recovered any other way.

“The missing transcripts – almost all of those interviewed – is one clue that something unusual is afoot here,” Bradford observes.

“And then there are names like Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner who told the House Select Committee on Assassinations that “he was an FBI informant who reported to Warren D. deBrueys…on several occasions he saw [Lee Harvey] Oswald in the company of deBrueys and other Government agents…”

The transcript of the Church Committee’s interview with Orest Pena is missing too.


Bradford’s careful detective work illuminates something that Senator Richard Schweicker, the Pennsylvania Republican who served on the Church Committee, said regarding Oswald, “Everywhere you look with him there are the fingerprints of intelligence.”

“It seems we may never know for sure,” Bradford writes. “The most we can learn from missing records is the pattern created by the empty space they leave behind.”


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27 thoughts on “More missing JFK records: the vanishing Church Committee files”

    1. Willy Whitten

      May 17, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      I wonder if there is anything in these Church transcripts about Congressman Leo Ryan’s murder at the Jonestown airstrip?

      It’s unlikely. The Church Committee wrapped up in 1976. Ryan’s murder occurred in November 1978.

  1. The Church Committee records aren’t the only missing docs as there are many ONI records we know exist because we have the testimony and talked with the ONI officers who wrote them – Reeves and Steel – (see interview with Steel at – especially the 119 reports they wrote from the San Diego office after Oswald’s defection and after the assassination, as well as the relevant records from the Director of ONI Admiral Ruffus Taylor – and the ONI defector files that are being held back and will also go missing.

    The only way to get to the bottom of the missing records issue is to have the relevant subcommittee of Congress hold oversight hearings and investigate – but that won’t happen until Congress and the NARA are met with a united and committed group that can wield some power and influence – and not the dissing, back stabbing, squabbling “community” of researchers we now appear to be.

    COPA was an intent group the ARRB and NARA staff took seriously, and the role COPA and its members played in getting the JFK Act passed and following up on issues is mentioned more than once in the ARRB Final Report. That report is not final however and now it is up to us to see that the law is properly enforced and Congress oversees it.

    That’s one of the reasons we have regrouped as CAPA – as there really is power in numbers. We are just beginning to coordinate efforts to get the JFK Act oversight hearings, determine the number of withheld records, find out what became of the missing documents and see that those who break the law are brought to justice rather than given awards.

    Bill Kelly

    1. …The only way to get to the bottom of the missing records issue is to have the relevant subcommittee of Congress hold oversight hearings and investigate – but that won’t happen until Congress and the NARA are met with a united and committed group that can wield some power and influence – and not the dissing, back stabbing, squabbling “community” of researchers we now appear to be….

      Bill, a subcommittee of congress seems indistinguishable from “the community,” as both are long on partisan influenced agenda and short on commitment to identify and embrace irrefutable or preponderance of evidence regardless of what it portends or where it leads. What you describe as squabbling or backstabbing is what I see separating a portion of the community from most of it, and congress. Commitment to accuracy must trump any other agenda. I do not identify that as a cherished principle of “the community” as a whole or of Congress.

      1. Excellent point, Sgt., of recent, head-shaking lies and subterfuge by the CIA in a case of tremendous significance to our democracy but embarrassing to them as an institution. How familiar it sounds.

    2. Bravo Bill,

      If those committees and oversight hearings can draw attention to missing records, it is hoped that it will result in at least the same kind of public outcry like there was after the movie JFK, towards some kind of justice or truth disclosure if not positive change.

      I get riled up when I read about such disappointing news (missing records), even though I’m Canadian.

      Your last sentence hit home, since I read Jacob Carter’s interview of Dan Hardway over the weekend, wherein he recalls how George Joannides gloated when presenting highly expurgated documents to him while working at the HSCA.

  2. C-Span recently aired segments of a Brennan Center conference held last year on the 40th anniversary of the Church Committee. Among the panel participants were former Vice-President Walter Mondale and former Senator Gary Hart, both members of the Church Committee. Interestingly, C-Span aired as part of this Church Committee programing a talk on the committee by Rex Bradford to the Wecht Institute conference in 2013.

    Perhaps the alumni of the Church Committee and staff would be interested in pursuing missing documents, and in following up on issues related to the JFK assassination.

      1. The C-Span coverage included Frederick Schwartz, identified as the Chief Counsel of the Church Committee and Executive Director of the Brennan Center at NYU. Along with Vice-President Mondale and Senator Gary Hart, he might be a contact.

  3. With the passage of years, I find that what interests me most about JFK’s murder is the matter of just who Lee Harvey Oswald was, and exactly what was he doing in the last four years and three months of his life.

      1. What is this obsession with Oswald? The WCR never presented any viable evidence that Oswald had anything whatsoever to do with the murder of JFK.

        On the other hand, declassified CIA, FBI and State documents certainly do point to Jean Souetre and company of the old French fascist paramilitary outfit, the OAS, and the timing of those documents (the CIA meet with Souetre five to six months before the murder of JFK, the expulsion order for Jean Souetre in Dallas on 11/22/63, etc.) certainly does point to him and others as CIA contract assassins!

        1. If you can’t understand the reasons Oswald is the primary suspect in JFK’s murder, then you have to ask yourself if you’re really interested in the truth.

          1. 1. Oswald leaving the TSBD after the assassination.
            2. Oswald’s rifle being used in the murder.
            3. Oswald lying repeatedly about the most basic things to investigators.
            4. Oswald trying to shoot at the DPD in the Texas Theater.
            5.Oswald’s fingerprints on the boxes used as the sniper’s nest.
            6. Oswald’s attempt on the life of General Walker using his rifle.

            Those are all off the top of my head. They are all unassailable facts.

            Unless there is another person who has this many points of evidence pointing to his guilt, it is ridiculous to suggest that Oswald is not the primary suspect.

          2. They are all unassailable facts

            I guess there is nothing further to discuss, too bad Posner already used the phrase that sums up your opinions.

          3. “They are all unassailable facts.”~Greg Arious

            Are they now?

            That is curious, as I have attended quite a few discussions on this very site wherein these so-called “facts” were assailed, many quite successfully.

            Perhaps it would do you well to peruse some of the threads on JFKfacts, and get acquainted with some of the counter arguments to your bold assertions above.

      2. The affidavit by Mr. Hardway is outstanding. Thanks for posting it Bogman. I never realized Jeff had shown Joannides picture to three former DRE members who identified him as “Howard”, their case officer in the fall of 63.

      3. That lawsuit is fascinatIng with new and very valuable information IMO

        However on the other side it is sad how the CIA admitted to Joanides undercover role and the CIA lies about contact with DRE and the CIA directly to investigators . The deceit is breathtaking- this is the assassination of our President. How did nobody go to jail over this ???

        It’s information like this that makes me question individuals like Photon , Jean Davidson and John McAdams . How can an individual read this and not be totally disgusted ? How can anyone read this and actually defend the CIAs behavior ?

        How can the CIAs continuous and repeated deceit over critical 1st degree murder charges not at least cause some level of suspicion – the fact the CIA recently admitted to a benign cover up – how can no suspicion be raised over such an admission ? In all seriousness this borders on the level of delusional ( and I in no way mean that as insult even though it appears as such as I don’t like starting trouble but it shocks me an individual can actually defend this conduct in a democratic government ). This is the stuff you find in communist countries but not the USA.

        Again I don’t mean the delusional statement to be an insult and apologize in advance but I just don’t understand your thinking, but please help me. How can one be so inflexible on an issue despite the party actually admitting to breathtaking deceit ? I hope this doesn’t turn into some stupid argument , but rather a serious but 100% civil discussion in your thought process , To help me better understand as I am admittingly clueless and perhaps stupid to you. I don’t know know you and thus can’t hate you, but your thinking interests me in how you arrived at your conclusion , would you be capable of backtracking on your position ( and I mean this seriously ) ? I would like to believe we can discuss this issue civilly .One of your names comes up as the first link everytime one googles JFK assassination, intended or not that will be your legacy 50, 100, 200 years from now, and like all history it will be discussed and your response would help future researchers to provide them with your basic believes ( not the finite assassination details ) but the basic core believe that CIA had no role in the assassination either in an prior LHO intelligence capacity or something more sinister. ( Btw I personally don’t believe the CIA as an org was involved in the actual murder ).

        1. Uhhhh….DB? I know you included an apology later in your comment, but the early portion of your comment brought this to
          (my) mind.:

          ….a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we’re actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We’re thinking, People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this.

          Can you understand why? BTW, I agree people should have been prosecuted for the crime of obstruction of a congressional committee investigation by means of the CIA conducting a covert OP against its own constitutionally supported oversight. The same thing happened recently against Senate committee staffers
          (see )
          using computers assigned by CIA for security reasons, involved in investigating CIA activity. Nothing happened because of partisan differences and Sen.Diane Feinstein acting the annoyed but predictably compliant toady…..

          1. Makes sense lol . I’m a financial analyst by trade so chalk me up as a science guy- with math I’m one ( maybe one of the few ) that try and let the #s lead me where ever the F it leads me .

            But with this case the CIA has admitted numerous times its deceit , it’s hard for me to believe their ridiculous stories about LHO given what the evidence is today. Ruby killing LHO cause of Jackies grief 🙂

            Yes I’m aware of the CIA senate spying but I guess I expect them to do stuff like that . Covering up ( and admitting so ) about the murder of our elected President is a whole new level of F’d up – in my humble opinion of course.

            Anyway was hoping to have a civil discussion not on the endless WC evidence but why an individual would believe so faithfully in the Warren Report and the CIA cooperation with the evidence . Now likely an impossible task after reading your article . Oh well 🙂 my bad

          2. And just for the record while I believe Aliens exist due to the mathematical odds , I do not believe the CIA was involved in 9/11 lol , maybe an odd duckling lol

  4. Ramon F Herrera

    [Jeff wrote:] “Interview with William Attwood, the State Department official who handled secret negotiations with Cuba at the time of JFK’s assassination.”

    In the NARA database there are 2 records which contain the word “Attwood” and whose “Current Status” is “POSTPONED IN FULL”.

    RIF 157-10002-10028 (2 pages)
    RIF 178-10003-10118 (6 pages)

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