Since this letter was written, Henry Waxman has been replaced as Chairman by Republican Rep. Darrell E. Issa (Ca. 49), a partisan, conservative who has no intention of overseeing the JFK Act.
Assassination Archives and
Jim Lesar, President
Tel (202) 393-1921
Mr. Henry A.Waxman
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I write in my capacity as president of the Assassination Archives and Research
Center, a non-profit organization that aims to inform the public about political
assassinations. I write, too, as one who in the early 1990s testified before congressional
committees in support of the 1992 President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records
Collection Act (the "JFK Records Act"). This was the most sweeping disclosure
legislation ever passed into law, yet Congress has never reviewed either its
accomplishments - or, very important, its failures. Your committee, which has oversight
responsibility under the Act, has held no hearings on the subject for over a decade.
Congressional oversight is necessary, as just two examples make glaringly
1. Congress promised that, under the Act, virtually all Kennedy assassination
records would promptly be made public. It emerged just recently, though, that the
withholding 1,100 JFK assassination-related documents until at least 201 7. A second
cause for disquiet is the Agency's response to a recent order by the U.S. Court of Appeals
Told to search for operational files on the late George District of Columbia
Joannides, who in 1963 was case officer for the
a CIA-funded Cuban exile group
that had pre-assassination contacts with alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, the Agency
claimed that it could find no such records. This raises troubling questions as to whether
case officer Joannides' operations were completely off-the-books, with no records
created or preserved, or whether such records have been destroyed in violation of the JFK
Records Act - or other federal laws. Alternatively, the
may be interpreting the
request in line with some in-house formula that enables it to avoid searching for records
even though they are plainly within the scope of the request - thus circumventing the
Freedom of Information Act.
2. There is, too, the recent disclosure by the current Dallas District Attorney that
his office has uncovered 12 boxes of records related to the Kennedy case--records that
should long since have been released pursuant to the JFK Act. With the JFK Act's
enforcement arm, the Assassination Records Review Board ("Review Board"), no longer
in existence, what can be done to ensure that such records are placed where they belong -
in the JFK Records Collection at the National Archives?
More important than these individual examples, historians and researchers are
now unable to get to pertinent information on President Kennedy's assassination. This is
due in large part to the fact that the Review Board wound up its work in 1998. There is no
effective way for researchers to obtain prompt disclosure of records not already deposited
in the JFK Records Act Collection. Moreover, researchers experience problems even
when seeking access to what is already there.
I ask that you do now hold hearings to assess the working of the JFK Records
Act. Also that your committee address the need to modify and update it, or enact new
legislation, to resolve the sort of problems I have described.
The hearings should address the following issues, at a minimum:
1. The fact that the JFK Records Act's mandate, which requires full and prompt
disclosure of all JFK assassination-related records, is no longer being fulfilled.
2. The perceived need for fresh legislation to deal with developments that were
not foreseen when the JFK Records Act was passed.
3. The way the Justice Department has handled leads Congress asked it to
investigate. These include the acoustics evidence, a key basis for the House Select
Committee on Assassinations' finding that there probably was a conspiracy to assassinate
President Kennedy, and whether and how new tests should be undertaken to resolve
important evidentiary questions: and
4. The way the Central Intelligence Agency undermined the House
Assassinations Committee's probe of President Kennedy's murder - highly disquieting
information that has come to light thanks to work stimulated by the JFK Records Act.
I attach a memorandum addressing these and other matters at greater length.
I am available to discuss this subject with you or members of your staff at any
mutually convenient time. I may be contacted at the phone number given above, at my
home telephone, (301) 657-4298, or by email at email@example.com.
Assassination Archives and
cc: Rep. William Lacy Clay
MEMORANDUM REGARDING JFK ACT OVERSIGHT HEARINGS
From: Jim Lesar
President, Assassination Archives and
To: Chairman Henry A. Waxman
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
JUNE 6, 2008
In a cover letter, I have given an overview of why my organization, the Assassination Archives and
that you hold oversight Research
hearings on the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records CoIlection Act of 1992
("JFK Records Act"), 44 U.S.C. rj 2107.
The fact that it is almost 45 years since President Kennedy's assassination increases rather than diminishes the need for urgent action. The Justice Department has in recent years reopened a number of seemingly ancient cases - horrific racial slayings of the 1950s and 1960s - and in some cases has obtained convictions. It has been conspicuously inactive, however, on the murder of President Kennedy, a crime of enormous importance to the nation. This even though much about the case remains in doubt, and though significant evidence has emerged pointing to the possibility that there was a conspiracy.
The government's failure to address the doubts and confront such evidence has
had a lasting, profoundly negative impact on our democracy. It is no coincidence that the
steep and continuing decline in trust and respect for American leaders and institutions
began after the assassination and the Warren Commission's finding that Lee Harvey
Oswald acted alone in killing the President. Questions remain as to whether - to cite
more common suspicions, not least those expressed by the House Select Committee on
Assassinations - there was a conspiracy involving organized crime, or a foreign power,
or even "the military industrial complex" of which President Dwight Eisenhower warned
in his farewell address. Only by being seen to have made every last effort to resolve such
suspicions, and by achieving total transparency in terms of public disclosure. can we
begin to restore confidence in our democratic system and our national institutions.
Congress implicitly acknowledged this when it passed the JFK Records Act. It
recognized that the American people have the right to know their own history, and that to
know it they must have access to the facts - to the fullest possible record. As a direct
result of the Act, a huge volume of previously secret documents were rapidly released.
Those disclosures, coupled to ongoing research, produced stunning revelations. One such,
of which we would otherwise have remained ignorant, is the existence of Operation
Northwoods, the 1962 plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that called for mounting violent
"terrorist" attacks in
, phony hijackings of commercial
airplanes, and Washington
the framing of innocent people as "bombers" - all of which would be blamed on Castro
and used to justify an invasion of
Most relevantly, we now know that the 1976-1 978 probe by the House Select
Committee on Assassinations ("HSCA") was corrupted by the
CIA. This occurred when
the HSCA sought to learn what contacts alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had had
before the assassination with members of the
a CIA-funded Cuban exile
organization. The Committee asked the Agency to identify the group's case officer and
provide it with relevant records. The
never did this. Instead it brought the former
case officer, George Joannides, out of retirement to act as the
CIA liaison handling the
HSCA's inquiries on this and other matters. The
withheld from the HSCA7s chief
counsel and his staff the fact that they were relying for information on the very officer
who had handled the matter they were investigating! Congress never was given the
information it needed for this part of its investigation.
The HSCA7s former chief counsel, Professor G. Robert Blakey, has stressed the
gravity of this in a sworn affidavit. "By concealing his role in the events of 1963,
Joannides effectively frustrated the Committee's investigation into one of the central
issues in the investigation of the President's assassination and the performance of the
agencies that President Lyndon Baines Johnson had tasked with the investigation of
President Kennedy's assassination: the role, if any, of the Agency with those who had a
hand in the death of the President."
The HSCA's work in this area was potentially crucial because:
(1) it was as a result of Oswald's confrontations with
members in August 1963
that he gained a high public profile as a Soviet defector and pro- New Orleans
Castro sympathizer, and
(2) it was
who within hours of the assassination disseminated this
information on Oswald's background to the press. It was they who ensured that
the next day's headlines painted Oswald as an active pro-Castro Soviet defector.
By covertly using Joannides to deal with the HSCA, the
undermined the House
investigation. The last official investigation of the Kennedy assassination was thus
subverted by the very agency long suspected by some scholars and researchers of having
at least covered up something substantive - and perhaps of having even been somehow
involved in the assassination. This subversion made a mockery of the democratic
accountability intrinsic to congressional investigation.
The AARC calls upon Congress to investigate this
malfeasance and require a
thorough, fresh probe of Oswald's pre-assassination contacts with the
DRE and other
Cuban exile organizations. For Congress not to respond with firm action would be
unacceptable in our democracy.
Please note, moreover, that the
has disclosed that it is withholding 1,100 JFK
assassination-related documents, and intends to block their release at least until 201 7.
This alone violates the assurance Congress gave that the public would have prompt
access to all relevant records. At least some of these withheld documents may relate to
officer for the DRE at the time Oswald had
contact with the
group. Should that be the case, the
concealed salient information from the Warren
Commission, the Senate Intelligence ["Church] Committee, the HSCA, and the citizen
body that oversaw the operation of the JFK Act - until it ceased its work in 1998 - the
Assassination Records Review Board (the "Review Board").
In light of the above, the AARC calls upon Congress to enact new legislation that
brings the date for full disclosure of all JFK assassination records forward to 2009.
The JFK Records Act requires remedial action in other areas. Some examples:
* The Review Board ordered that many records or portions of records that
were initially withheld be disclosed at dates prior to 2008. A good deal of such
information, however, is still withheld. The National Archives and Records
which has a duty to disclose such materials once the NARA
postponement date is reached, does not always do so.
* While the Review Board was in existence, many records containing third
agency information were referred to third agencies for action. Those agencies
have in many cases failed to process the referred materials in timely fashion, and
through by obtaining it.
* It has become clear in recent years that records pertinent to the study of the JFK
assassination are not in the JFK Collection - either because they were overlooked
by government agencies and the Review Board or because new areas of inquiry
have opened up that were previously not perceived as relevant or significant by
agencies or the Review Board. In some instances agencies have concealed or
destroyed relevant records. Many Church Committee records that should be in the
JFK Records Collection are not. The
file on Eladio del Valle, a significant
Cuban exile long suspected of involvement in the assassination, is missing. The
Collection does not have the audiotapes of communications between the White
House and Air Force One after the assassination. The Review Board failed, for its
part, to obtain the records of President Kennedy's personal physician, Admiral
George Burkley. Burkley was the only doctor present both at
autopsy took place. Disclosures under the JFK Act have drawn attention to a
operation codenamed AMIWORLD, which some researchers suspect is key to a
putative plot to kill Kennedy. Few AMIWORLD records have thus far been
* In flagrant violation of the JFK Records Act, the Secret Service destroyed
records after the Review Board ruled that they were assassination-related.
Congress should conduct a full investigation into why this was done and on
* CBS Television agreed to donate film outtakes of Kennedy assassination
materials to the JFK Collection. Yet, researchers contend, only part of its
collection has so far been deposited.
* Kennedy aide Walter Sheridan investigated the President's assassination on
behalf of Robert F. Kennedy and worked to discredit the probe by
District Attorney Jim Garrison. After
death. the Review Board's Sheridan
negotiation with his family to obtain his papers was frustrated by NBC
had worked for the network, and NBC - claiming ownership Sheridan
-took possession of the papers. NBC has not to date turned them over to the
* Mexican television recently reported that the
had an agreement with
Mexican intelligence that surveillance data gathered on Mexican territory would
be shared with the Mexican government. We know that there is or was such
material relating to alleged assassin Oswald's visit to
shortly before the Mexico
assassination - a visit that has long been a subject of controversy. Former HSCA
chief counsel Professor Blakey advises that the State Department is currently
in an attempt to obtain this surveillance material. It is Mexico
important that Congress have the State Department report on its progress, or
otherwise, on the matter.
CIA entered into an
agreement with the Review Board to continue
processing any and all JFK assassination records after the Review Board ceased to
function. It has not honored that agreement. The result - and this applies not only
CIA but also to
other agencies - is that persons requesting assassination
records not already a part of the Collection must proceed under the Freedom of
lnformation Act ("FOIA") - which is far more restrictive than the JFK Records
Act. It was the inadequacy of the FOIA, indeed, that led Congress to pass the JFK
Act in the first place. In a real sense. requesters thus find themselves back to
Square One. Congress should hold hearings on the need for new legislation to
ensure that researchers have access to materials mandated for release under the
JFK Records Act.
The House Assassinations Committee concluded in 1979 that, contrary to the
Warren Commission's lone assassin finding, "President John F. Kennedy was probably
assassinated as a result of a conspiracy." Leads the Committee passed to the Justice
Department for further investigation included, importantly, studies by two distinguished
panels of acoustical experts. These studies found that at least four shots had been fired at
the President, from two different directions, pointing to more than one shooter and thus to
Congress has conducted no oversight hearings to determine whether the Justice
Department adequately pursued these leads, or whether new evidence has emerged on the
New evidence has indeed emerged:
(1) Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory have discredited the last
remaining basis for the "Single Bullet Theory," which was relied on both by the
Commission and the House Assassinations Committee. The Single Bullet Theory posits
the notion that President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally were both struck
by a single bullet fired from Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. The Theory is the sine
qua non for the belief that only one assassin was involved. The
scientists now say, however, that scientific advances make the Single Bullet Theory
inapplicable. They assert, moreover, that bullet fragments tested by the FBI could have
come from one - or as many as five - bullets, and could have been fired from a
Remington rifle or another weapon other than Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano.
(2) In the HSCA's probe, each panel of acoustical experts supported the other's
findings that the acoustics evidence indicated four or more shots fired from at least two
different directions. These studies have now been reaffirmed and strengthened by a peerreviewed study conducted by an American government scientist, Dr. Don Thomas. If his study is correct, the assassination of President Kennedy indeed remains unsolved.
Other assassination researchers argue, meanwhile, that analysis of the
police tapes and
photographic evidence fails
to support the HSCA's finding Dealey
that the sounds of the gunfire in
were captured by an open
mounted on the motorcycle of a police officer in the President's motorcade. This police
tapeslphotographic evidence should also be investigated.
I am advised that further tests and studies, undertaken by appropriate experts,
could clarify whether the acoustical findings relied on by the House Committee are valid
or not. In addition to requesting that you hold public hearings on the overall functioning
of the JFK Records Act, therefore. we also call upon your Committee to hold oversight
hearings on the state of the acoustical evidence, and on what can be done to resolve the
It is essential that Congress use its muscle to ensure that the JFK Records Act
again operates as the lawmakers intended and that government agencies, the
included, comply with all its requirements. Congress should also ensure that,
notwithstanding the passing of the years, fresh evidence is studied and given a thorough
To fail to take such action, in a way that is absolutely clear and transparent, would
be to invite further erosion of the public trust. A democratic nation lost its elected leader,
in circumstances never satisfactorily explained, and requires nothing less of its elected