Yes there was a JFK Records release, and it clearly was not what Congress had called for in the legislation passed back in 1992. Thanks to some very competent researchers we know that it was the release of only 52 previously withheld-in-full documents – some 2%, with more than 3,100 remaining on hold. It was also the re-release of over 2,800 documents previously released with redactions – less than 10% of over 30,000 which were to be released with minimal redaction (as to that minimal redaction, well that certainly didn’t happen for much of what we have seen).
Of course we knew that the agencies involved would petition to withhold certain of those documents, and in truth we have no idea yet of how many they did petition and which ones those were. In a reasonable world the President would have had his staff conduct a review of those being protested and decisions would have been made on each. After all we are talking about documents which have been in this cycle for 25 years, seemingly that would have provided adequate time for such a review. Instead, President Trump simply placed a blanket hold at virtually the last minute. Based on his texts and statements we are led to believe that all documents not containing names of living individuals will be released within approximately six months.
At the risk of making myself unpopular I have to say that is not at all how national security is supposed to work. As the JFK act stated, documents could be withheld based on potential damage to foreign relations, law enforcement, or operational security (sources and methods). Does this imply that damaging information (as much as we want it) may well be released to us in six months simply because there are no names of living individuals in those documents? Are all the national security challenges actually going to be waved simply on the basis of names in documents – and exactly who is going to examine those documents over the next six months (some 33,000 of them) to check names against the death registry. I also have to point out that CIA documents and many FBI documents use pseudos’ and aliases for security purposes so there will be no true names in those documents anyway.
OK, so the forget about national security. If the release does follow the President’s apparent guidelines we might get a whole bunch of documents that will be really interesting – or will we? President Trump’s statement said nothing about redactions and based on what we have seen in these new releases there are actually more redactions in some previously released documents than copies available prior to this latest release. If what we get are 32,000 pages of highly redacted documents – well that’s probably not what Congress had in mind either.
So enough carping on my part. Now for the good news, some of our best researchers are finding important information in what little has been released and that is coming out day by day; we will have the best synopsis available presented by our documents specialists at the upcoming JFK Lancer conference in Dallas.
As for myself, I’m following along and wanted to discuss one example at least briefly here. It relates to a memo generated by Lansdale (head of Mongoose) early in the Cuban missile crisis. The memo notes that a hold is ordered on Alpha 66 and the sabotage of Cuban shipping. Now if you have read any of my book you immediately go – “hey, Alpha 66 was going after Russian ships, they hated the CIA and were acting outside of CIA control and wanted nothing to do with the CIA – and their missions were already supposed to be blocked whenever possible”. I’ve even written about documents from early 1963 containing recommendations from the Army that Alpha 66 be utilized in anti-Castro operations, a proposal totally rejected by the CIA. But I’ve also written about the fact that Alpha 66 itself was helped to organize and promote itself by someone named Bishop, whom many suspect to have been CIA officer David Phillips. And that David Morales mentions in a memo that Alpha 66 would probably be surprised if they realized the CIA knew about all their operations and was letting them go ahead even when all non-agency missions were supposed to be blocked.
So here we have a document suggesting that either Lansdale was totally clueless about Alpha 66 or that the CIA did have some sort of highly cut-out operational control over them. Which tells us nothing about the JFK assassination per se but might tell us something very new about what would have been a deeply buried CIA operation, and possibly about a man named Bishop. For those who have followed my work on that question, this might be interesting…for those who haven’t, not so much…but it’s fascinating to me.
One final word, there are a lot of media stories running on the document releases, written by people who have no idea of what is really new and what is not. Things that have been researched and addressed in details years ago are being touted as new and sensational. And some people appear to be entertaining themselves by circulating documents debunked repeatedly over the last two decades as new and exciting, part of the latest release. About all I can say is – reader beware!
Update: 550 more records were released on Friday Nov. 3, all CIA. At first glance some are purely administrative in nature and deal with the process and guidelines pertaining to document security – although these are never before seen records the redaction appears to be quite heavy with many pages totally blank. Stay tuned for further assessment.