James Angleton set the strategy in 1964.  “Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission,” as one CIA memo about Warren Commission inquiries put it.[1]  They are still doing that as well as running their propaganda campaign against anyone who questions the lone-nut theory, their “best truth” according to David Robarge.[2]

James J. Angleton

I recently published an article about the delay in releasing records under the 1992 JFK Records Collections Act.  In that article I explained the CIA’s play to discredit those who question their lone-nut theory best truth and suggested that their historian, David Robarge, has told us what to look for in the documents that are still being withheld.[3]  In that article I suggested we should look for information regarding covert operations against Cuba that would “circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories” – Mr. Robarge’s words.[4]  While I doubt the existence of a “smoking gun,” the circumstantial evidence we might look for in the delayed files could show a correlation between Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Mexico City in the late summer and fall of 1963 and CIA covert operations that were occurring at that time.[5]  I specifically suggest that we look to files on operations involving George Joannides, the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (“DRE”) and David Phillips.  These are files, or at least some of them, that are in the JFK records that were scheduled for release.

On October 26, 1992, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition.  The Senate bill, introduced by Senator John Glenn of Ohio, was signed the same day by the President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526,   (“JFK Records Act”). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy with minimal exceptions.  It mandates, in clear and unambiguous language, “[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”  The Act allows an exemption to this explicit mandatory requirement only if the President “certifies” that the release of each withheld document “is made necessary by an identifiable harm to” either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”[6]

NARA released some of the files that I have been waiting on yesterday, November 3, 2017.  The Excel spreadsheet listing the released files include four files referenced to David Atlee Phillips and one file referenced to the DRE.[7]  Of the files referencing Phillips, three are of an unspecified nature and one is listed as his Office of Personnel (OP) file.  The DRE file is listed as “CIA file on DRE AMSPELL operations.”

David Atlee Phillips

George Joannides

AMSPELL is a CIA cryptonym for DRE, the anti-Castro Cuban group that was run by George Joannides in 1963, that had the encounter with Oswald in New Orleans in 1963, and published the first conspiracy theory blaming Castro in their CIA financed newspaper in Miami on November 23, 1963.  The file released yesterday, for such an active group, is a very thin 87 pages of which 61 are expurgated in full.  Of the remaining 26 pages, many are largely expurgated.  The Phillips files are even worse.  The three files of unspecified type may be some of his operational files.  These files are even more highly expurgated than the AMSPELL file.

Taking the 73 page long file RIF 104-10177-10135 as an example:

3 pages are a confidential notice that the file has been processed and retired which notice is reprinted in full;

3 pages are the file’s routing sheet that has been partially released with redaction of any significant information;

2 pages are a 1975 FOIA request from The Bay City Times, a newspaper in Bay City, Michigan, reproduced in full;

1 page is a Document Transfer and Cross Reference” form indicating that records of a project apparently named “Furioso C” have been removed from this file and sent to another section of the CIA with a redaction that not only removes the substantive entry but also the name of the space on the form where the entry was made;

2 pages are partially redacted memoranda;

3 pages are Security information forms for Project Furioso C with all substantive information redacted; 2 pages are a Project Financial Data form from 1952 with no substantive information that is not redacted;

6 pages are partially redacted routing sheets for documents, none of which have the routed document attached;

1 page is a partially redacted cable from 1952;

2 pages are copies, unredacted of logs of HSCA access to the file, showing that I saw the file in 1978.

The remaining 48 pages are redacted in full.

The file that is listed as David Atlee Phillips’s OP file is not as heavily redacted as the other three Phillips files although many of the documents, mainly personnel forms, it contains have been cleansed of any significant data.  That, however, is not the end of the story on this file.  The file starts with a few items of post-retirement correspondence to between him and the CIA in 1975 and then proceeds chronologically backwards from his retirement in 1975.  I have not yet been able to go through the 358 page file to carefully study all the documents, but I have gone through it well enough to note that all his fitness reports between 1956 and 1965 are missing – not redacted, just simply not there.  Indeed, so far as I have been able to find, there is no record whatsoever of a document in the file dated between 1961 and 1965 – not redacted, just simply not there.

            There has been no explanation, let alone a presidential certification, that the massive redactions in these “released in full” documents meet any of the mandatory exemptions that allow withholding.  No identifiable harm is specified.  No rationale is given as to why the secrets protected outweigh the public interest in disclosure.  These files are not in compliance with the law no matter what the main stream media says.  They are an in-your-face flipped bird to the American public.  They basically tell us that the CIA is saying that they don’t have to comply with the law of the land and that they will not tell us their secrets and that there is nothing we can do about it.  I’ve been here before.  It was in a small room in CIA Headquarters in late 1978.  I had been fighting to see a file generated by the CIA debriefing of Johnny Roselli.  Scott Breckinridge and George Joannides had just handed me a highly redacted file that violated the HSCA/CIA Memorandum of Understanding mandating unexpurgated access by HSCA to CIA files.  They stood by, grinning, as they watched my reaction upon opening the file to find it largely expurgated.  They were grinning so hard because they knew they had waited out the HSCA and there was nothing I could do about it.  The Angleton strategy still worked.  It is still working today.

This release not only demonstrates that the Angleton strategy is still being applied.  It also illustrates the point I have been making about what they are covering up.  There may well be nothing we can do about it.  It appears our lawmakers are spineless in the face of the intelligence community.  Joseph Burkholder Smith, a retired CIA officer, told me and Gaeton Fonzi in 1978, “You represent Congress.  What the f*** is that to the CIA?  You’ll be gone in two years and the CIA will still be there.”  To paraphrase that to fit the situation in which we now find ourselves: “You are the people that Congress supposedly represents.  What’s that to the CIA?  You’ll forget about it in a few weeks or so.”

But I won’t.  I wrote a letter to my Senator yesterday before I saw the travesty that was the day’s release of JFK documents by NARA.  Probably a futile gesture, but one I had to take anyway.  Here’s what I told him:

 

“Please allow me first to introduce myself a bit.  While I am your constituent, I do not believe we have ever met.  I was born and raised in Webster County, West Virginia, and still reside on the farm my grandfather purchased in the 1940’s outside of Cowen.  I am a graduate of WVU – 1976 – and while there got to know some of the members of your family.  I had the privilege of running your first cousin Tim Manchin’s campaign for a seat on the WVU student government Board in the mid-70’s.  I am a 1980 graduate of Cornell Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Tom McHugh of the West Virginia Supreme Court.  I took a year and a half leave of absence from law school to work as a researcher for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations in 1977-1978.  My primary area of responsibility in the Committee’s work was to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency and Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City.  Most of the work I produced for the Committee remains classified.  I am presently registered to vote in Webster County with an Independent affiliation.

I am aware that the Republicans in this state are trying to mount a serious challenge to you in the upcoming election and I am presently considering whether to become involved in the campaign and, if I do, who I am going to support.  In that regard, and in view of your position on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, your position on an issue that is very important to me will influence whether I decide to actively support you in the upcoming election.  That issue is the release – or I should say, the failure to release – the records currently held in the JFK Records Collection by the National Archives and Records Administration.  While the records, and access to them, is of great interest to me, the real issues raised by the failure to release them are much more fundamental than just access to the assassination records.  It is these fundamental issues that I want to explain and upon which I wish to hear your opinion.

On October 26, 1992, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition.  The Senate bill introduced by Senator John Glenn of Ohio was signed the same day by the President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526 which is codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note (“JFK Records Act”). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy with minimal exceptions.  Among its other provision, the JFK Records Act, at § 5(g)(2)(D), mandates in clear and unambiguous language “[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”  The Act allows an exemption to this explicit mandatory requirement only if the President “certifies” that the release of each withheld document “is made necessary by an identifiable harm to” either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”   [Emphasis added.]

I note that this is a law duly enacted and adopted by the democratic processes of this country in 1992 – a country where we supposedly pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, a nation where the law applies to each and to all regardless of status or position.  On October 26, 2017, as I am sure you are aware, President Donald Trump, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence community members, disregarded the clear provisions of the law and postponed release of ninety percent of the remaining withheld documents in the JFK Records Collection for an additional six months.  In doing this, the President made no findings, issued no orders and certified nothing, merely issuing a statement through the press office saying that all documents will be released “with redactions only in the rarest of circumstances” by April 26, 2018.

The President’s action was not only without authority in law, it was also taken in patent violation of the clear, unambiguous and mandatory terms of a law that your institution passed.  In this situation, I would be tempted to file a suit against the President if it were not for the facts that: 1) the Courts have already held that the JFK Records Act does not provide a basis for any private cause of action for U.S. citizens, Assassination Archives and Research Center v. Dept. of Justice, 43 F.3d 1542, 1544 (D.C. Cir. 1995); 2) Federal Court litigation is too expensive to allow access to a normal citizen trying to hold his government accountable; and 3) it would take more than six months to get a case through to a decision in Federal Court so the action would represent no type of check or correction to the problem.

The real problem that this presents is that it is showing to the nation that the intelligence agencies of our nation are not subject to the laws of the nation.  They are effectively above the law.  At their request, or pressure, the President of the United States will violate the clear mandates of enacted legislation.  And, to date, the reaction of our elected representatives in Congress seems to reinforce the fact that no one is willing to stand up to such blatant disregard of the clear provisions of the duly enacted laws of the nation.  I understand that it is the executive branch that is charged with the enforcement of the laws your branch enacts and, in this case, it is the executive branch that is violating the law so there can be little realistic expectation of enforcement from them.  But this is the heart of the problem and why it is incumbent upon the Congress to act.  At a minimum, there should be oversight hearings.  At a minimum, the Congress should not be seen to willingly acquiesce in executive contempt for the Legislative branch of government and the law of the land.

This action on the part of the intelligence community, the National Archives, and the Executive is only the latest in a long string of actions that disregard the provisions of the JFK Records Act that also subvert and cover up the information related to the assassination of our 35th president.  Those other actions are beyond the present scope of this letter, but are things about which I would be glad to speak with you if you have any interest, so I will not go into them here.

To my knowledge there has been no coverage or explanation of why the intelligence community has requested this delay of the President.  It was made in secret.  What reason have they given for the delay?  What kind of pressure have they brought to bear?  How can they force a president to so blatantly disregard the law?  If they can do this in regard to disclosure of fifty-year-old records, in what else can they exercise a like secret influence that corrupts the laws of the nation?  What affect does the existence and use of such secret power have on our democracy? If these things – not just the documents but the method of influence – remain always secret, then how can a citizenry be sufficiently informed so as to exercise their franchise to any real purpose?  How can we have faith in our democracy, let alone our government, if this kind of practice is allowed to continue unchallenged?  These are the questions that I would like to have answered.  But, to make it easier for you, I note you are in a unique position in regard to these issues due to your membership on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Are you at least going to call and press for public hearings on any of these issues?  Or are you going to join the vast majority of our representatives and once again cower before the intelligence agencies?  Will you stand up for your constituents’ right to participate in their government on an informed basis?  Will you stand for holding our government to a standard of open honesty before its citizens and against allowing the real affairs of state to be conducted in secret and in disregard of the laws enacted by the peoples’ representatives?

I anxiously await your answer.”

 

The questions I asked Joe Manchin in that letter are even more pressing today.  I don’t know if he’ll even answer, let alone do anything.  Maybe like Chuck Grassley, he’ll send out an apparently frustrated tweet.  Or maybe, like the main stream press, he’ll tout the release of the documents, hoping no one will look to see what a travesty the “release” is because of the massive redactions.  At this point all I can do is try to tell the truth about this whole state of affairs.  I also encourage you to not take this insult to your intelligence and ability to govern yourselves without reaction.  Do something.  If nothing else, circulate this article to everyone you know.  Refuse to accept the cancer of secrecy that destroys our liberty and ability to govern ourselves.  Get involved.  Get informed.  Stay informed.  Read and follow http://2017jfk.org/home/ and http://jfkfacts.org/.  Join the AARC at http://aarclibrary.org/aarc-membership/.  Join CAPA at http://capa-us.org/membership/.  If those who exercise the power in this country have such blatant contempt for the law, then the time for serious peaceful civil disobedience may be upon us.  Get the word out.  Don’t be silent any longer.  This is not an issue of the left or the right.  Do something.  Say something.  And don’t stop until you are heard.