Tell your Senators and Representative
The following letter from Lamar Waldron was accepted into the official record for the March 14, 2006 Congressional Hearing chaired by Rep. Shays entitled "Drowning in a Sea of Faux Secrets: Policies on Handling of Classified and Sensitive Information."
This was the first time Congress had been told about AMWORLD, the Tampa assassination attempt, and that "well over a million CIA records" related to the assassination remain secret today. The letter is available at the official website of the US Congress at the Government Printing Office: http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/house/house07ch109.html. Find "Serial No. 109-1067--Drowning in a Sea of Faux Secrets," click on "PDF," and the letter is on pages 226 through 230.
If you want all the JFK files released before 2017, and justice for Abraham Bolden, it's important to let your own Representative or Senator know about it now. To e-mail them, copy the following link for this page.
Then, go to http://www.vote-smart.org/index.htm, and enter your 9 digit zip in the left column, to find their office and e-mail address or form. Then, write a short, polite note about your concerns and paste in the link to this page.
March 9, 2006
Congressman Christopher Shays, Chairman
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
B-372 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Shays:
I wanted to provide you with the following information for your March 14, 2006 Hearing regarding the recently-disclosed Reclassification Program at the National Archives. Those Reclassification efforts may have affected two important groups of records which remain unresolved from the work of the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, which was created by Congress as part of JFK Act, which Congress passed unanimously in 1992.
It would be a shame if those two groups of unresolved JFK records had been--or might in the future--be subject to Reclassification, before their contents had been even generally been made known to Congress and the American people. The unresolved records involve two groups, one of which consists of "well over one million CIA records" related to the assassination that remained unreleased as of 2000, according to a detailed report prepared that year by OMB Watch. The other unsolved group includes files the Secret Service admitted destroying in January 1995, copies of which might still exist in the files of other agencies. Both groups of records also impact the case of Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden, whom some consider the first National Security Whistleblower--a general topic your subcommittee's brought welcome attention to last month.
1. Could any of the "well over one million CIA records" be Reclassified?
In December 2000, OMB Watch issued a report entitled "A Presumption of Disclosure: Lessons from the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board" (available online at ombwatch.org). As part of the report, they had interviewed "two...former Board members...a staff member" of the Board and "an employee of the National Archives and Records Administration who functioned as its liaison with the Board." One of them stated that "'well over a million CIA records' are still outstanding."
That raises an obvious question in regards to the Reclassification Program. Is it possible that the "million CIA records" which are still outstanding, and have not yet been made available to Congress, historians, or the American public, could be Reclassified? Could other files related to those records--such as the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series--be Reclassified?
According to one journalist, the Reclassification program has not involved the JFK Assassination records collections. However, several of the FRUS records not designated as assassination-related by the Board--and thus possibly not in the JFK collection--are related to the relevant CIA files in question. And the status of the "million CIA records" is unclear: Are they at the Archives--and if so, are they part of the JFK collection--or are the segregated at the CIA? The essential question is whether those "million CIA records"--or other records related to them--are subject in any way to the Reclassification program?
According to a 1999 article for the American Historical Association by John W. Carlin, at that time the Archivist of the United States, the CIA and FBI had a "memoranda of understanding with the" JFK Assassination Records Review Board "giving them until September 1999 to complete their contributions to the (JFK) collection." For reasons noted below, it is likely that the "million CIA records" were provided or identified during this additional year following the last meeting of the Review Board (henceforth referred to as the ARRB), in September 1998.
I realize one of your witnesses next week is Dr. Anna Nelson, a former member of the ARRB. However, according to an e-mail sent to several authors and historians by Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley, Dr. Nelson stated to him that she didn't know anything about the "million CIA records" referred to the OMB Watch Report. That would make sense if those records were provided during the year following her last meeting with the ARRB, and is an indication that she may not be able to shed further light on that particular subject.
The "million CIA records"--and whether they are, have been, or will be subject to Reclassification--is highly relevant to will of Congress as expressed in their 1992 JFK Act and in relation to other records which the CIA and other agencies have withheld from Congress in past decades, but which were finally declassified by the ARRB.
It seems odd that agencies like the CIA would be reclassifying files before ever explaining to Congress and the public why crucial records from 1963 about covert operations to assassinate Castro that were infiltrated by the Mafia were withheld from so many Congressional committees.
Among the four million pages of files which were declassified by the JFK Records Review Board before it ceased operations in September 1998 were those concerning John and Robert Kennedy's "Plan for a Coup in Cuba," and the CIA's supporting role in that operation, code-named AMWORLD. It should be noted that those records had been almost completely withheld from not only the Warren Commission, but from several Congressional investigations. Those include the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), the committees commonly referred to as the Church Committee, the Pike Committee, the Nedzi Committee, the Watergate Committee, and the Iran-Contra Committee. The term AMWORLD, or information from its files, appears nowhere in the reports of those Committees, even though AMWORLD was the largest CIA operation devoted to the overthrow of Castro in 1963, and it involved CIA personnel investigated or interviewed by all of those Congressional committees. It was especially relevant to the work of the HSCA and Church Committees, since CIA and FBI files confirm that AMWORLD had been infiltrated by associates of the two Mafia godfathers the HSCA determined had the motive and means to assassinate JFK, Carlos Marcello of Louisiana and Santo Trafficante of Tampa. Both of them later confessed their roles in JFK's death to associates, and Robert Kennedy himself told associates that Marcello was behind JFK's assassination.
The declassified term AMWORLD has never appeared in any Congressional report and did not appear in print for the public until November 2005, in a book-length study entitled "Ultimate Sacrifice," by myself and Thom Hartmann. Likewise, that was the first time historians and the public were made aware that CIA files confirmed the Mafia infiltration of AMWORLD. Though a small number of AMWORLD documents were declassified in the early 1990s through the CIA Historical Review Program, it is my understanding that the staff of the ARRB had not been made aware of AMWORLD until about ten months prior to the end of their mandate. Several key AMWORLD documents were released in September 1998, but others bear release dates of January 1999. An August 24, 2004 search of the Archives online database for AMWORLD yielded 17 documents. A search on January 25, 2006 yielded 97 documents, though it's unclear if more AMWORLD documents were added to the collection or if they documents were there all along and were simply added to the online database.
The AMWORLD documents that have been released so far all discuss a vast number of people, meetings, and operations whose files have still not yet been released. Also, the CIA's copies of many of the "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" documents from 1963 (contained in the Archives Califano and Joint Chiefs files) have never been released. In addition, code-names and cover identities for CIA personnel investigated by several Congressional Committees--such as David Atlee Phillips and Manuel Artime--are revealed in AMWORLD files for the first time, having been withheld from the Congressional investigators looking into them. For all those reasons, I feel that the majority of the "one million CIA records" are related to AMWORLD and the Plan for a Coup in Cuba.
One of those related operations involved a Cuban exile organization organized by CIA officer David Atlee Phillips, called the DRE, whose members had a highly-publicized encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald in August of 1963. The CIA is currently fighting a lawsuit brought by Jefferson Morley of the Washington Post, who has sued for the release of those documents. The CIA has acknowledged that more than 1,000 exist, but refuses to turn them over. Further, in the late 1970s when the HSCA tried to identify the CIA (handler) of the DRE, the CIA claimed it couldn't find any such person, though it appointed a CIA officer to assist them, named George Joannides. It was only decades later that the HSCA's Executive Director, G. Robert Blakey, found out that Joannides himself had been the DRE's handler during 1963. Blakey stated to PBS "Frontline" in 2003 that because of that deliberate deception "I no longer believe that we were able to conduct an appropriate investigation of the Agency and its relationship to Oswald." He adds that "the Agency set up a process that could only have been designed to frustrate the ability of the committee in 1976-79 to obtain any information that might adversely affect the Agency."
In light of that still-unexplained CIA deception of Congress, and the CIA's refusal to release the documents about Oswald, the DRE, and Joannides it seems ill-advised to allow the CIA to reclassify documents without proper oversight, especially in light of the remaining "one million CIA files" that have yet to be released.
Just as historian Matthew Aid's recent article about the Reclassification Program showed some files were being reclassified simply to avoid embarrassing an agency (like the CIA's 1950 Korean report), the CIA probably withheld AMWORLD and the Plan for a Coup in Cuba documents from Congress to avoid embarrassment or focusing suspicion on some of their personnel who were involved with the Mafia. But the CIA wasn't the only agency withholding files from Congress--the DIA coordinated with AMWORLD and had a big role in the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and almost none of their files on those matters have ever been released. Again, to allow the DIA and CIA to reclassify material without the proper oversight or justification seems ill-advised in light of their past history.
2. Could records being Reclassified shed light on JFK records destroyed in 1995?
The second group of records which could be adversely affected by the Reclassification Program are the 1963 records which the Final Report of the ARRB confirmed were destroyed in January 1995. These were destroyed by the Secret Service. While it is not clear from news reports if the Secret Service is involved in the Reclassification Program, that's not the point. The point is that other agencies, such as the CIA or DIA, may have had copies of the Secret Service files or--more likely--their own records from the time which could shed light on what was in the destroyed files. These files are highly relevant to the case of Abraham Bolden, the Secret Service agent who tried to become a whistleblower and wound up being sent to prison for six years.
It's remarkable that the document destruction described on Page
149 of the ARRB's Final Report has not received more attention from
Congress, since it clearly shows how the will of Congress and the
JFK Act was flaunted by the Secret Service. It says that:
"...In January 1995, the Secret Service destroyed presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy's trips in the fall of 1963. The Review Board learned of the destruction approximately one week after the Secret Service destroyed them, when the Board was drafting its request for additional information. The Board believed that the Secret Service files on the President's travel in the weeks preceding his murder would be relevant."
The Secret Service then gave the ARRB its explanation for the destruction.
However, the ARRB's Final Report goes on to say that
"...the Review Board sought information regarding a protective intelligence file on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and regarding protective intelligence files relating to threats to President Kennedy in the Dallas area (the Dallas-related files were disclosed to the Warren Commission). The FPBCC and Dallas-related files apparently were destroyed and the Review Board sought any information regarding the destruction. As of this writing, the Service was unable to provide any specific information regarding the disposition of these files. The Secret Service submitted its Final Declaration of Compliance dated September 18, 1998, but did not execute it under oath. The Review Board asked the Service to re-submit its Final Declaration."
The January 1995 destruction of the files about JFK's trips just prior to Dallas take on added significance when you realized that shortly before that, in November 1994, the ARRB had been informed for the first time of an attempt to assassinate JFK in Tampa, Florida on November 18, 1963 (four days before Dallas). That attempt was covered up at the time because of National Security considerations surrounding the Coup Plan/AMWORLD. The Tampa attempt was withheld from the Warren Commission and all later Congressional committees. Only one small newspaper article about it appeared the day after JFK died, which I and my co-author uncovered after combing through thousand of pages of newspaper microfilm. I informed the ARRB about the Tampa attempt in November 1994, as did Tampa author Frank DeBenedictis. The fact that DeBenedictis and I provided written submissions to the ARRB in November 1994 is confirmed in the ARRB's FY 1995 Annual Report.
It's likely that other agencies, like the CIA, FBI, DIA, and others, had or have today information about the Tampa attempt, either their own information or copies of information obtained in 1963 from the Secret Service. I later interviewed the Tampa Police Chief from November 1963, who described the security effort to thwart the threat as being quite extensive and involving many agencies. That thought that the CIA or others might be allowed to reclassify information that could shed light on that attempt seems to go against the will of Congress as expressed in the 1992 JFK Act.
It seems bizarre that a single November 1963 newspaper article contains quotes from a Secret Service report about the Tampa suspect, when the report itself no long exists--at least from the Secret Service. The FPCC document destruction referred to in the ARRB Final Report is also relevant, since a key suspect in the Tampa attempt was linked to the Tampa FPCC.
Ensuring that material in the files of other agencies related to the Tampa attempt or the Secret Service document destruction is not reclassified is very important, not just for history but for the case of former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden. Agent Bolden tried to be a whistleblower, and was going to Washington, where he could have told Warren Commission staff about Secret Service laxity, an earlier plot to assassinate JFK in Chicago on November 2, 1963 (3 weeks before Dallas), and the Tampa attempt.
Instead, Bolden was arrested the day he arrived in Washington. Bolden had been an upstanding agent, but he was eventually convicted and sentenced to six years in prison even though his main accuser later admitted committing perjury against him, and Bolden's judge told the jury he thought Bolden was guilty. Bolden has been trying to clear his name ever since his release from prison. We present evidence in the book showing that Bolden was framed by Chicago Mafia associates of Santo Trafficante, including a CIA asset named Richard Cain whom CIA files show had infiltrated AMWORLD for the Mafia.
Any information which could help Bolden's case should not be subject to reclassification by the CIA, Secret Service, FBI or any other agency.
In conclusion, I would like to request that the above groups of documents be kept in mind as issues of reclassification are considered. I do realize that on occasion, there may be a legitimate need for agencies to reclassify certain material, especially in cases where the identity of a confidential informant or a covert US asset may be exposed. (In two instances where I have come across such information in files at the Archives, I have made Archives staff aware of it.)
However, stringent safeguards should be in place to make sure that agencies are not simply reclassifying information to avoid embarrassment. Independent historians, such as Dr. John Newman (a twenty year veteran of military intelligence) or Dr. David Kaiser of the Naval War College, could be used to review reclassification decisions to make sure they are justified.
In addition, before the agencies are given latitude to reclassify material on such a broad scale, shouldn't they be required to address the decades they withheld the crucial documents described above from Congress, and the material which is still withheld or was destroyed?
I appreciate your time and consideration of these matters.