Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Convressional Oversight is Needed: Secret Service Records Destroyed

A Cautionary Tale - Why Congressional Oversight of JFK Act  Is Needed

By Doug Horne, former chief-analyst for Military Records of the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB)

• In January of 1995, the U. S. Secret Service destroyed two boxes of JFK
assassination records willfully, in violation of the law (specifically, in violation of the
JFK Records Act). The records had been labeled for permanent retention, and the
National Archives staff had briefed the Secret Service (and all other key Executive
Branch agencies) after passage of the JFK Records Act that no records were to be

• The records destroyed were protective survey reports on visits President Kennedy
made, or planned to make, to twenty-three (23) different locations between September 24, 1963 to November 8, 1963, inclusive—as well as the normal protective procedures
employed whenever President Kennedy visited 19 various locations throughout
Washington, D.C.

• Among the records destroyed were three folders pertaining to President Kennedy’s
cancelled trip to Chicago, which was to have taken place on November 2, 1963—but
which was apparently cancelled at the last minute due to an assassination attempt.
(See JFK and the Unspeakable, by Jim Douglass, for details.)

• The Secret Service withheld the fact that the records had actually been destroyed for
about six months; instead, in response to repeated requests for the records from the
ARRB staff, they dissembled and told the ARRB staff that the records “could not be
located.” Only when the Secret Service realized that the Review Board was not going to
stop asking for the records, did it admit that the records had been destroyed.

• Initially, there was great rage and consternation within the Review Board about the
destruction of these potentially vital records. That action ran contrary to the very
purposes of the JFK Records Act, which was to make all assassination records possible
available for direct inspection by the American people, and thereby not only help us
understand our own history better, but increase trust in government.

• The Review Board and the Senior Staff of the ARRB considered holding public hearings to castigate and censure the Secret Service officials responsible, but after an unusually frank and tense exchange of correspondence between the ARRB and the Secret Service, nothing happened. Private meetings were held between senior officials on both sides, but no public hearings were held; no one was admonished or punished; and the problem was barely acknowledged— Indeed, was under-reported— in the ARRB’s Final Report. (See Volume V of Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, by Douglas Horne, pp. 1451-1458, for more details about this incident.)

Prepared by: Douglas P. Horne, Former Chief Analyst for Military Records, ARRB

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