The state of the still-classified JFK files

Rex Bradford and I assess the State of JFK Releases 2021 at Mary Ferrell Foundation web site.

According to NARA’s JFK Assassination Records Processing Project page, 15,834 documents still feature redactions. We found three kinds of redactions in these records:

  • Classification that prevents the release of trivial information: In one document about CIA’s Mexico City station, the word “unilateral” was made public only in 2017 (see then vs. now). In context, “unilateral” means no other intelligence service assisted in U.S. surveillance in Mexico City 55 years ago. Did withholding this information protect U.S. national security? It’s hard to see how. This redaction is symptomatic of widespread overclassification of JFK files.
  • Classification that spares the CIA embarrassment and has nothing to do with national security: In this testimony of CIA officer Sam Halpern (who is one of very few insiders alleging that Robert Kennedy was a driving force in the plots to kill Fidel Castro) the Agency is still hiding the details of a 1960’s scheme, in which Halpern participated, to make a fake porno film about President Sukarno of Indonesia because he charted a foreign policy independent of the U.S. government. This type of withholding is a matter of public relations, not public safety.
  • Classification that blocks release of potentially significant JFK information: Some of the 2017/2018 releases actually left redactions completely unchanged. For example, see this March 1964 CIA memo for the Warren Commission, then vs. now. The redacted information in this case is almost certainly the job title of counterintelligence officer Lee Wigren and the CIA component he worked in. This information could be significant in the JFK story because the Warren Commission was originally told that the CIA had only 5 documents on Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of the assassination. In fact, the true number of pre-assassination Oswald documents was at least 42. The CIA waited ten weeks to share this very basic information with the Commission. Lee Wigren did the belated sharing. What CIA office was he working for in 1964? His CIA job title/office in 1975 are declassified in this document, which has been in the public domain for decades. So why is his title/office in 1964 withheld? The answer might help illuminate the process by which the CIA slow-walked the Oswald investigation. This is exactly the kind of question the release of JFK records is supposed to answer.

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