Tag: declassification

Russ Holmes, keeper of the CIA’s JFK secrets, dies

Russ Holmes, CIA's JFK archvist
Russ Holmes, CIA’s JFK archivist

The narrative of Libra, Don DeLillo’s lucid novel about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is propelled by the ruminations of one Nicholas Branch,a mid-level CIA man in post-60s America. A civil servant, Branch is ordered by anonymous superiors to pull together everything the Agency has on “the six seconds that broke the back of the American century.”

As Branch takes on this Sisyphean task he marvels at the enormity and complexity and opacity of the CIA’s record related to the events that culminated with the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas. As he sifts through the case officer reports, the fitness evaluations, the budgets, and the op plans, the story of Libra unspools.

Russ Holmes, whose death in December was recently announced, was a real-life Nicholas Branch.

A truth commission could help pave the road to normal U.S.-Cuba relations

As the United States and Cuba prepare to open embassies in Havana and Washington on Monday, the The Washington Post reports:

The two governments have made clear that opening their embassies is only the first step on a long road to “normalization” and that they have many remaining differences on issues including the ongoing U.S. economic embargo, human rights and outstanding legal claims against each other.

One trait the two governments have in common is the practice of extraordinary official secrecy around records related to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and the many U.S.-based assassination attempts against Cuban president Fidel Castro. …

Why the last of the JFK files in the National Archives could embarrass the CIA 

National ArchivesBryan Bender of Politico digs deeper into the story of the 3,600 still-secret JFK files held by the National Archives, reporting that the withheld material includes records from the FBI and the National Security Agency. And he see  indications that some federal agencies will continue to seek postponement of the records’ release past their scheduled release date of October 2017.

Almost 3,600 JFK records at National Archives sealed until 2017

National ArchivesThe U.S. government retains approximately 3,600 records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that have never been made public, according to the latest count of the National Archives.

Martha Murphy, a National Archives official, told a public forum in Washington on April 10, that only .01 percent of the JFK Assassination Records Collection at the Archives has not been made public. In a follow-up email with JFK Facts. Murphy acknowledged that she had misplaced the decimal point. The actual figure is 1.1 percent, she said. …

National Archives puts the CIA on notice about JFK records

The National Archives responds to the wishes of the public.

That’s the good news from yesterday’s forum at the Archives building in Washington, D.C. In her lengthy and detailed statement, Martha Murphy, de facto chief of the JFK Assassination Records Collection, laid out the Archives’ plan for the release of thousands of pages of assassination-related records by October 2017.

In the past, JFK Facts has taken Archivist David Ferreiro and his staff to task for their passive position on the continuing stonewalling of the CIA, which retains more than 1,100 assassination-related records and has insisted on redactions of hundreds of thousands of other documents.

Now the Archives is taking a more proactive role. In her remarks at the forum, JFK archivist Martha Murphy made clear that the Archives is proceeding on the assumption that the CIA and other agencies will release all of their JFK records and remove all of redactions on JFK records, as mandated by law, in October 2017, unless specifically ordered by the White House. Under the terms of the JFK Records Act, federal agencies can only continue to postpone release of documents with the approval of the White House. By default the records will become public.

This is the appropriate public stance for the Archives to take because that is what the JFK Records Act requires. That’s rather different than the public position the Archives took two years ago. At a public forum in August 2013, Archives general counsel Gary Stern gratuitously told citizens demanding the enforcement of the JFK Records Act that there was no “conspiracy” to keep records out of public view. Stern also regurgitated the CIA’s absurd talking point that it didn’t have “the time or resources” to declassify JFK records.

JFK Facts pointed out that the agency somehow found the time and resources to declassify its records about the Katyn Forest massacre in Poland in 1941, a tragic and historically important event to be sure but one in which, unlike the tragedy of Dallas, no Americans lost their lives.

When the National Declassification Center’s blog asked for public suggestions for what records should receive priority when it came to declassification, the largest number of comments by far came from people urging the release of JFK records. The public’s overwhelming preference was ignored in favored of the CIA’s prerogatives.

When I expressed some bitterness about this state of affairs, well-placed Washington friends assured me the Archives was doing all that it could behind the scenes, that Ferreiro and Stern favored full disclosure, and that public criticism would accomplish nothing. I’m willing to believe that. I know Stern personally favors full disclosure, and I trust Ferreiro does too. All of that is beside the point.

The National Archives does not work for the CIA. The National Archives works for the American people and the JFK Records Act, passed in 1992, is clear: all government records must be “immediately” reviewed and released. For the CIA to say, two decades after the passage of that law, that it lacks the “time and resources” to come clean about the murder of a sitting president was not only extraordinarily revealing about the agency’s everyday contempt for the memory of President Kennedy. It was — and is — an evasion of the law.

The National Archives deserves credit for putting the CIA (and other) agencies on notice that it expects compliance with the law by October 2017. This doesn’t mean the CIA cannot and will not seek postponement of some records. If there is no public attention to the issue, I think they probably will.

 

 

 

 

What the CIA is hiding about three Cuban exiles implicated in the JFK story

Fabian Escalante
Former head of the Cuban state security agency, General Fabian Escalante

Fabian Escalante, the former head the Cuban state security agency, Departamento de Seguridad del Estado (DSE), has identified some persons of interest in connection with JFK’s assassination.

In his book JFK: The Cuba FilesEscalante identifies people whom his agency suspected were involved in the death of the president.

Besides the familiar names of  CIA officer David Atlee Phillips and David Sanchez Morales, Escalante focuses on three lesser known Cuban exiles:

US-Cuba detente can clarify the JFK assassination story

At the heart of the tortured relationship between the United States and Cuba over the past half century is–or was–the assassination of President Kennedy.  Now that the two countries have agreed to a more normal relationship, symbolized by President Obama’s upcoming visit, maybe, just maybe, a more detached, realistic and informed view of November 22, 1963 is possible.

Former JFK investigator: Don’t hold your breath for 2017

As general counsel for the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) in the mid-1990s, Jeremy Gunn had unparalleled access to the government’s records on the JFK assassination. Last year he gave an interesting talk about “Seeking the Truth in the Kennedy Assassination” at the Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England in Portland, Maine.

The whole Bay of Pigs thing

In face of a persistent legal challenge from the National Security Archive, the CIA continues to resist releasing an internal history of the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs more than a half century ago. The struggle for Volume 5, as the history is known, is an epic legal contest

Why the secrecy about something that happened so long ago?

That question was the subject of a recent historian’s roundtable: National Security Archive v. Central Intelligence Agency.

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