Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 21 October 2017

Trump Tweets ‘Yes’ to JFK Document Release


 
I’ve been peppered with questions from family, friends, and even the media (I’ll be interviewed live on BBC-TV early Thursday morning), wanting to know the significance of President Trump’s Saturday announcement that he would permit the release of all remaining classified documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy.

It’s an excellent question, and one that has myriad possibilities. Here’s a shortened version of my take on the matter.

JFK Trump tweet 2
Background. There have been 3 major investigations, by various parts of the Federal government, of the JFK assassination —

  1. The so-called Warren Commission (Report issued 1964; 888 pages); President Johnson strong-armed Chief Justice Earl Warren to chair the Commission in order to affirm to the public the “truth” that Lee Oswald alone killed the president.
  2. The so-called Schweiker-Hart Senate Sub-Committee, part of the Church Select Committee on Intelligence (Report issued 1976; 106 pages); Richard Schweiker and Gary Hart investigated the Monkey Business committed by and associated with the American Intelligence agencies related to the JFK assassination; and
  3. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (Report issued 1979; 686 pages); this committee was formed to further investigate the assassinations of both President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and was the first one to suggest the possibility of a conspiracy to kill JFK.

All of these efforts to “find out the truth” about the assassination relied for information on various national law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, Secret Service, etc. As a matter of wrapping up their work, each of the investigations boxed up all of the documents they had collected from these agencies, along with their internal working papers, and en masse declared them “classified” for various long periods of time. Honestly, none of them ever offered a reason for hiding all this information that I (and huge numbers of others) ever found credible or satisfying.

The perceived inadequacies, inconsistencies, and pre-conceived conclusions associated with the Warren Commission’s year-long investigation and its findings would have been enough by itself for people to demand to see all of these sealed-away documents. But it was Commission Chairman Earl Warren himself who lit the fuel of urgency. When he was asked if all of the Commission’s information would be made public, he replied, “Yes, there will come a time. But it might not be in your lifetime.


Congress: “Release ‘Em.” In 1992, the last full year of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, Congress listened to the rising voice of public pressure by passing (with the president’s signature) the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.

The law required that agencies throughout the Federal Government transfer assassination-related records to the National Archives, and thus the JFK Assassination Records Collection was born. The Archives’ web site notes that the law required that “all records previously withheld [from release to the public] either in part or in full should be released on October 26, 2017, unless authorized for further withholding by the President of the United States. The 2017 date derives directly from the law that states:

Each 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 the enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that –

(i) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement or conduct of foreign relations; and

(ii) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

“The Act was signed by President Bush on October 26, 1992, thus the final release date is October 26, 2017.”

Dribs and Drabs. During the intervening 25 years, the National Archives has released a steady stream of documents, generally well indexed, so that searching was made almost easy. However, as the 2017 deadline approached, the speed of the releases failed to satisfy the researchers. Describing the pace as having dropped to “snail-like” and “in dribs and drabs,” information hunters approached the date of October 26, 2017 with increasing and seemingly justified skepticism. Would the full, uncensored documents be forthcoming?

On July 24 of this year, the Archives released a batch of 441 “formerly withheld-in-full documents” and 3,369 documents previously released with portions redacted. While this was a huge chunk of .PDFs to pore through, a little arithmetic told researchers there was a huge number more hidden documents promised for October. The debate raged as to whether it would actually happen — with consensus overwhelmingly leaning to the negative. According to figures supplied by the National Archives, there could be as many as 50,000 documents “identified as assassination-related remaining withheld in full.”

Will we see 50,000 documents on October 26? Unlikely. But you get the gist of the order of magnitude with which we are dealing.

JFK Liberty ButtonSo, What Will Happen? I don’t know, but I perceive there are 3 issues raised by all of this, which we may briefly consider to end this essay — (1) lessons from the July 2017 release, (2) options remaining for the President, and (3) how likely is it that a “smoking gun” will be found?

The July 2017 Bomb (Dud?) That Dropped. As I awaited my (electronic) copies of the almost 4,000 documents in July, I knew it would be an Everest-sized miracle if there were any sort of indexing done. Well, there’s no crying in baseball, and there are no miracles in Government.

Remember that above I mentioned the great value and ease imparted by the fact that the documents currently in the Archives’ JFK Collection are generally very well indexed. If I want to know what, if any, documents are in the collection pertaining to the Raleigh, NC man that Lee Oswald was attempting to call from the Dallas jail, all I have to do when I’m at the National Archives Annex in College Park is enter “John David Hurt.” Out pops a list of all documents (released prior to this year’s July mass batch) in which his name appears.

The fact that there was virtually NO indexing done for the July release (and certainly will not have been done for whatever comes out in October) means that months or years of slogging, page by page, through thousands of documents, will be the only way new knowledge is gained. Fortunately, I know for a fact that there are a large number of info-craving individuals out there who will gleefully, carefully, and painstakingly take that very route. The point is… when the documents are released on October 26, don’t expect Fox News or the Huffington Post to immediately be able to give you the run-down on what it contained. The prospect harkens back to Earl Warren’s prescient prediction of “not in your lifetime.”

What Might the President Do, and Why Might He Do It? Scroll back up to look at President Trump’s tweet about the JFK documents. The first 7 words immediately jumped out at me when I first read it: “Subject to the receipt of further information…” Words are important in Washington, and in government in general. That caveat obviously meant something important, and we should take note of it. Should the president want an “out” (or should someone “convince” him that it would be in his best interests to make one), the original law that mandated the October 26 release provided an escape route from his otherwise plain duty to release all the documents.

If you look above at the Roman numerals (i) and (ii) in the excerpt from the law quoted there, you’ll see exactly the “out” he has. Will he use that “out”? Or will he defy the Intelligence agencies that are strongly calling for a delay or denial of the release of some documents in the Archive? Or — a third possibility — was this just a ploy all along? The tweet allows him to appear as a champion of transparent (or at least translucent) government, while keeping the door open for him to later say, “Well, I tried. But I simply cannot put our Intelligence agents (or law enforcement or military) in the kind of danger that releasing some of these documents would do. It is with my greatest respect for what these brave men and women do to protect us every day that I will protect them by delaying the scheduled release until such time as we can be certain that their safety will not be compromised.”

Frankly, I could see it going any of those three ways.

There will be no smoking gun.

There will be no smoking gun.

A “Smoking Gun”? This one is somewhat easier for me, as I have been giving the same answer for the entire 40+ years I have been researching, writing, and lecturing about the assassination. There will be no smoking gun.

Mentally walk with me for a couple of minutes, and let me show you why I am absolutely convinced this is so. For the moment, we should assume the worst. Assume that there was a big Conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. (After all, if Lee Oswald were the sole assassin, there would be no need to look for or hide a “smoking gun,” would there?)

No matter who actually was involved in the Conspiracy, the investigative and intelligence agencies would have, some time or other, come across something that could serve as a “smoking gun” — perhaps not identifying the shooters or the groups behind them, but enough at least to prove beyond doubt that there were others involved. That’s a “smoking gun” for Conspiracy if I ever heard one — and the “Lee Oswald = Lone Nut” narrative immediately flies out the window if this document ever sees the light of day.

Let’s further assume that this document finds its way to one of the 3 Federal investigations listed above. Someone sees it, and says, “If the public saw this today, there would be a strong clamor for the president to either bomb Russia or bomb Cuba or break the CIA into a thousand pieces, or whatever. National crisis. We have our dead ‘lone nut’ assassin, so let’s just keep him as that. This document cannot see the light of day.” Are you with me so far?

So logically and realistically, what do you think happens to that document? Does it get put into a folder and later classified for 75 years? Or does it find its way to the shredder or incinerator? Anyone high enough in the government with sufficient power to be able to make such a file-away-or-burn decision would, it seems to me, make absolutely certain no one ever saw that piece of paper again. Thus, I have always said that the declassifying of documents will never solve the case in one fell swoop.

BUT … having said that, I don’t want you to leave here thinking I am saying that the October 26 document dump (and the one from July) are pointless wastes of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s continue our mental walk together. The National Archives revealed that it inherited 5,000,000 documents from the various agencies, as a result of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. Think of this, if you will, as a 5,000,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. By saying above that I believe that no “smoking gun” will be found, all that means is that there will not be found in the puzzle box one single piece (a “smoking piece,” if you will) that will magically reveal the whole picture.

The logical alternative, however, is that by careful examination of all of the pieces, and finding how they fit together, that picture will slowly, inexorably appear. That is how we’ve progressed in the overall investigation to date. We must recognize that there are some pieces that are very small that will not likely to reveal much of the overall picture. But when combined with these 2 here, and those 5 over there, etc., first a pattern, then a picture, begins to emerge.

Therefore, the document dump on October 26 will not be July 4 fireworks-worthy. It won’t be a compelling, sexy, rah-rah, 007-type event. Oliver Stone will almost certainly not make a movie about October 26. But it will mark one more step, albeit halting and long overdue.

Had it had not been for public opinion rising up to demand the release of the hidden documents in the 1980s and early 1990s, October 26, 2017 would just be one more day of walking past the Christmas decorations to find the Halloween candy.

Let’s keep the cry of public opinion strong and persistent for the Truth about who killed our President.

Release the Documents
 

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