Continued Secrecy in the JFK Assassination?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
In the early 1990s, Congress enacted the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, which ordered federal agencies, including the CIA, to disclose to the American people their long-secret records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The law was enacted as a result of public outrage generated by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, which posited that Kennedy’s enemies within the U.S. national-security establishment had orchestrated the assassination and cover-up and had framed Lee Harvey Oswald for the crime.
Stone’s movie informed Americans that massive amount of records relating to the assassination were still being kept secret by federal agencies. The implication, of course, was that the national-security establishment (i.e., the military and the CIA) were keeping the records secret in order to cover up the fact that it had orchestrated and carried out the assassination. Public pressure to release the records, consisting in large part in telephone calls and letters to Congress, forced Congress to pass the Act and President George H.W. Bush to sign it into law.
Many of the records were released to the public during the 1990s, when the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), which was the special federal agency that was responsible for enforcing the law, was in existence.
But there was a big problem: Whoever wrote the law ensured that the ARRB would go out of existence before all the records were released. In fact, the law provided that federal agencies would have until October 26, 2017, to release their records, notwithstanding the fact that the ARRB would go out of existence in the 1990s.
Federal agencies, including the CIA, took advantage of that provision and continued keeping many of their JFK-related records secret, no doubt thinking that 25 years seemed like a long time away. Those long-secret records though were placed under the control of the National Archives, which has recently announced that it intends to fully comply with the law by releasing all the records in October of next year.
There was another big problem, however: The records do not have to be released if the president certifies that: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
In other words, the much ballyhooed term “national security.” If the president decides that the release of remaining records, which consist of tens of thousands of pages, would threaten “national security,” the law authorizes him to continue the secrecy.
The chances that a president, whether Obama, Clinton, or Trump, doing that on his or her own initiative are slim. If it’s going to happen, it will inevitably entail a formal request from the CIA or some other federal agency seeking to continue keeping the records secret.
It goes without saying that any claim that the disclosure of records relating to an assassination carried out more than 50 years, supposedly by a lone nut, is going to adversely affect the United States is, well, ludicrous. Regardless of what the records show, the United States is not going to fall into the ocean, the federal government isn’t going to collapse, and the communists are not going to invade and conquer the United States and take over the IRS and the Interstate Highway System. If the United States could survive the release of the Snowden documents, it can withstand the release of the JFK assassination records.
Yes, it’s true that the release of the records might well damage the CIA and other federal agencies, especially if the information in such records lends support to the thesis put forward in Stone’s movie 30 years ago. But while the disclosure of truth relating to the JFK assassination might prove damaging to the national-security establishment, that’s not the same thing as damage to the country. In fact, the disclosure of truth in the Kennedy assassination is the best thing that could ever happen to the country.
Some in the mainstream press claim that there were no “smoking guns” in the release of records in the 1990s. But such is clearly not the case. The evidence adduced by the ARRB, including both testimony and written records, provided a large body of long-secret circumstantial evidence that pointed in the direction of Kennedy’s enemies within the national-security establishment, evidence that the mainstream press, for some reason, has been reluctant to confront and investigate.
Much of that circumstantial evidence, as well as motive, has been set forth in the following books relating to the JFK assassination that have been published by FFF:
The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger
JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne (who served on the staff of the ARRB)
Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob G. Hornberger
The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger
For example, consider the sworn testimony of Saundra K. Spencer, who was petty officer in charge of the White House Laboratory at the Naval Photographic Center in Washington, D.C. She worked closely with the Kennedy White House in the development of photographs. It would be difficult to find a more credible witness than Saundra Spencer.
Spencer testified under oath before the ARRB. She was asked to examine the official autopsy photographs that are in the records today. She testified that those official autopsy photographs were definitely not the ones she developed on the weekend of the assassination. She also testified that the photographs she developed showed a large-sized wound in the back of Kennedy’s head, depicting an exit wound, which would connote a shot having been fired from Kennedy’s front. Oswald was in Kennedy’s rear and, therefore, could not have shot him from the front.
Spencer wasn’t the only one who confirmed that Kennedy had a big blow-out wound in the back of his head. So did the Dallas treating physicians. Consider, for example, what Dr. Robert McCllelland told CBS in 2013: “(I said) ‘My God, have you seen the back of his head?’ And they said, ‘No, we came in just ahead of you.’ And I said, ‘Well, the whole back of his head is missing on the back side.’ Well, when I saw that injury to the back of his head, it became apparent to all of us, all three of us who were gathered around the President’s head working on him, that this was a fatal injury.”
They weren’t the only ones. There were other witnesses, including two FBI agents, who affirmed that there was a large exit-sized wound in the back of Kennedy’s head.
As I showed in The Kennedy Autopsy, the official autopsy photographs show the back of Kennedy’s head to be intact. That leaves two possibilities: (1) All the witnesses who affirmed the large exit-sized wound in the back of Kennedy’s head conspired with each other to concoct a false story regarding the wound in the back of Kennedy’s head or (2) the U.S. national-security establishment published official autopsy photographs that falsely depicted the condition of Kennedy’s head.
Here’s another anomaly. Robert Knudsen was the official social photographer for President Kennedy. He would follow him around and take informal pictures of Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and his children John and Caroline. Like Spencer, it would be difficult to find a more credible witness than Knudsen.
The ARRB learned that Knudsen had been telling people for years that he had been the official photographer for the Kennedy autopsy.
But there was a big problem. The official autopsy photographer was actually a man named John Stringer.
So, was Knudsen lying? Why would the official White House photographer for Kennedy’s social life lie? What would be his motive? Wouldn’t he know that it would be easy for people to determine he was lying? All that some reporter would have to do is ask Stringer and other people at the official autopsy whether Knudsen was there. They would have confirmed that Knudsen wasn’t there.
But there is another possibility — that Knudsen was telling the truth, which would mean that there was some other autopsy procedure that he photographed, one that he was led to believe was the official autopsy. Wouldn’t this possibility dovetail with Saundra Spencer’s testimony that the official autopsy photographs in the records were not the ones she developed?
Unfortunately, the ARRB was unable to subpoena Knudsen to testify because by that time, he had passed away.
These are just two of the many unexplained anomalies that were disclosed to the American people as a result of the JFK Records Act.
For many more, read our four ebooks cited above.
Also, read the fascinating new ebook being published by The Future of Freedom Foundation, entitled CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files authored by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, who runs the best website relating to the JFK assassination—JFKFacts.org. This ebook will be published on Amazon on June 10, the anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous Peace Speech at American University, which deeply angered the national-security establishment with its call to end the Cold War and befriend the Soviet Union and Cuba. You can pre-purchase it here for $3.99.
Are there more anomalies in the records that are set to be released in October 2017? My hunch is that there are and that that’s the reason why the CIA and other elements of the national security state did not release them back in the 1990s, preferring to wait until the final deadline of 2017 and hoping that CIA officials in charge at that time could secure a further extension of time for secrecy.
Will the U.S. national-security establishment ask the president for further secrecy with respect to the 1963 JFK assassination? My hunch: There is no doubt about it. They know that researchers are champing at the bit to examine those remaining records.
Should they be granted continued secrecy? Of course not. If they have nothing to hide, they shouldn’t fear disclosure of records relating to an event that occurred more than a half-century ago.
Will the president, whoever he or she is, grant continued secrecy in the JFK assassination? That depends on the American people. If there is as much outrage as there was in the early 1990s, a request for continued secrecy might not be granted. But if there is apathy and indifference, the secrecy will likely be extended for another 25 years.