John Newman - “Oswald and the
- Chapter 20 Conclusion: Beginning
The JFK murder case cannot be truly closed before it has been genuinely opened. It was a tribute to the insanity that has surrounded the subject when, in the fall of 1993, the American national media leveled inordinate praise on a book whose author was attempting to close the case just as the government’s files were being opened. That opening was created by the passage of the JFK Records Act in 1992, a law that mandates that the American government must make available all its information on the case.
(Many) years and millions of pages later, there is much that remains closed. Like a huge oil spill, a glut of black “redactions” is still strewn across the pages that have been released. The real opening of this case is in its early stages. But we have finally arrived at the beginning.
For more than three decades the rules for how the case has been presented in the national media were these: The government hast he facts, citizens who do not believe the official version of events guess and make mistakes, and the apologists for the official version poke fun at the people who venture their guesses.
That game is finished. The rules have changed. The law is now on the side of our right to know as much of the truth about this case as does the government. The only guessing-game left is how much damage to the national psyche has been inflicted in the futile attempt to keep the truth hidden.
The threat to the Constitution posed by the post-World War II evolution of unbridled power and sometimes lawless conduct of the intelligence agencies is grave.
The level of public confidence in American government is now at a crisis stage.
The moment that the JFK Records Act was passed in 1992, the Kennedy case became a test for American democracy. It is no longer a matter of whether American institutions were subverted in 1963 and 1964, but whether they can function today.
For this reason, adherents on both sides of the Kennedy assassination debate would do well to keep their eyes on the work of the intelligence agencies and the Review Board. If excuses begin to build, and the exceptions game begins anew, a golden opportunity to reverse this country’s slide into cynicism will be lost. The interests of neither side in the debate are served by that outcome. No intelligence source or method can be weighed on the same scale as the trust of the people in their institutions. That this state of distrust has persisted and has been allowed to fester is as tragic as the assassination. It is an unhealed wound on the American body politic.
The purpose of this book is to carry out an examination of the internal records on Oswald in light of the newly released materials. The attempts to resolve the continuing riddles and mysteries of the Oswald file offered here are first impressions. They may change as new information comes to light. It is safe to state now, however, that American intelligence agencies were far more interested in Oswald than the public has been left to believe….
Oswald’s Cuban Escapades
It was Oswald’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee that led to the “smoking file” described in Chapter Nineteen. His FPCC activities set off alarm bells at the FBI and its field offices in
New York ,
and New Orleans , and at Dallas CIA.
Both organizations had long been actively involved in operations against the
FPCC. Just as the Soviet Realities Branch at the CIA
had earlier developed an operational interest in Oswald. It is difficult to
proceed with certainty because the public record contains cover stories. All we
can say for sure is that the Special Affairs Staff, the location for anti-Cuban
operations, was discussing (with the FBI) an operation to discredit the FPCC in
a foreign country at the time of Oswald’s visit to Mexico, and that the CIA
has been denying what it known about Oswald’s Cuban activities ever since.
The record of Oswald’s stay in
, May to September 1963, is replete with
mistakes, coincidences, and other anomalies. As Oswald engaged in pro-Castro
and anti-Castro activities, the FBI says they lost track of him. The Army was
monitoring his activities and says it destroyed their reports. The record of
his propaganda operations in New
published by the Warren Commission turned out to have been deliberately
falsified. A surprising number of the characters in Oswald’s New Orleans episode turned out to be informants or
contract agents of the New
Orleans CIA. The FBI
jailhouse interview with Oswald, which focused on the FPCC, was suppressed until
after Oswald returned from .
The story of Oswald’s return from
become even more murkier…. Mexico
What Does This Do For The Case?
CIA was far more
interested in Oswald than they have ever admitted to publicly…While we are
unclear on the precise reasons for the CIA’s
pre-assassination withholding of information on Oswald, we have yet to find
documentary evidence for an institutional plot in the CIA
to murder the president. The facts do not compel such a conclusion. If there
had been such a plot, many of the documents we are reading - such as CIA
cables to , the FBI,
State, and Navy - would never have been created. However the facts may well fit
into other scenarios, such as the “renegade faction” hypothesis. Oswald appears
- from the perspective of a potential conspirator with access - to have been a
tempting target for involvement because of the sensitivity of his files. It is
prudent to remember when speculating about where the argument goes from here
that the government and the Review Board have yet to deliver what the Records
Act promised: full disclosure. Mexico City
On the other hand, we can say with some authority that the
was spawning a web of deception about Oswald weeks before the president’s
murder, a fact that may have directly contributed to the outcome in .
Is it possible that when Oswald turned up with a rifle on the president’s
motorcade route, the Dallas CIA found itself living
in an unthinkable nightmare of its own making?
What Price Secrecy?
It is a shame that protecting sources and methods may have contributed to the president’s murder. Each day these secrets are kept from the public only does more harm. Cover stories, deceptions, and penetrations are kinds of secrets the
CIA and FBI will fight
hardest to protect. Yet they are clearly the kinds of secrets whose release
would signal that the promise of full disclosure has been kept.
We are reading documents that were inappropriately denied to the House of Representatives investigations in 1978. Congress created the
and congressional oversight is not possible without access. It is especially
wrong for the CIA to withhold information
when it is being investigated by Congress.
The issues raised by the past conduct of our intelligence organizations must be discussed openly. Practical, effective solutions must be found. Tangible measure must be devised and implemented that will build reasonable constraints into the system and the public’s confidence in them. For example, no federal agency should ever be allowed to obstruct the course of justice in order to protect a source. This issue should not be politicized. It does not belong to the right or the left. It is one of the fundamental ethical issues of the late twentieth century….
The secrecy in which intelligence agencies conduct their operations has the unfavorable effect of insulating abuses from detection. So much time elapses before the facts are declassified that there is little interest left in reforming the aspects of the system that led to the abuse. As early as 1976 Henry Commager observed: “The fact is that the primary function of government secrecy in our time has not been to protect the nation against external enemies, but to deny the American people information essential to the functioning of democracy, to Congress the information essential to the functioning of the legislative branch, and - at times - to the president himself information which he should have to conduct his office. 3
A different criterion for secrecy - from the perspective of the people’s need to function effectively at eh ballot box - is needed. That might suggest, for example, that the basic period of classification be reduced to four or eight years, to coincide with the presidential rhythm of the national security apparatus.
Many of the political and social issues that have emerged from the history of the Kennedy assassination as a conspiracy “case” will find their resolution in years to come, when less will be at stake and American academe can discuss them safely. In the short term, there are compelling realities that must be faced. The moment the JFK Records Act was passed, we passed the point of no return. Not releasing the government’s files now does more harm than good.
As diverse a people we Americans are, we are unified by the democratic concepts we share: that ultimate power belongs with the people, and that the government cannot govern without the consent of the governed. For thirty years we have watched aghast as lie begat another and as one half-baked solution gave way to the next, and our confidence in our institutions slowly dissipated. At the heart of this situation is a relatively new development in American history: the emergence of enormously powerful national intelligence agencies.
As Commanger so eloquently observed twenty years ago: “The emergence of intelligence over the past quarter-century as an almost independent branch of the executive, largely immune from either political limitations or legal controls, poses constitutional questions graver than any since the Civil War and Reconstruction. The challenges of that era threatened the integrity and survival of the
Union; the challenges
of the present crisis threaten the integrity of the Constitution.”
The unsavory truth confronting American citizens, just as it confronts the citizens of
and Russia , is
this: Unbridled power cannot reform itself. The reform of the intelligence
system is something the people, not the intelligence agencies, must control. China
Because the Kennedy assassination is but one instance of hiding the truth, the passage of the JFK Records Act and how honestly it works have implications for the government’s records in all cases where its acts are questionable in the eyes of the people.
The stakes are high, and include nothing less than the credibility of our institutions today. The present generation has the responsibility to hold the government accountable.