Tuesday, 15 August 1995 21:18

ARRB Meets First Hurdles

A report on the first set of declassified documents coming out of the Review Board.

From the July-August, 1995 issue (Vol. 2 No. 5) of Probe

On July 21st the National Archives released the first set of ARRB approved documents. These were 16 CIA documents that the agency did not choose to contest. As Peter Dale Scott has written, "One of the documents . . . strengthens the impression that David Phillips . . . was directly involved before the assassination in the handling and reporting of Oswald's visit to Mexico City." Scott found that the temporary duty officer who picked up a special pouch related to the Mexico City episode was "Michael C. Choaden", a name the Review Board understands, from the CIA, to be a pseudonym for Phillips.

FBI and CIA Balk

After the rather smooth going on the first release, both the FBI and CIA began to balk at what came next. From CTKA sources in Washington, the ARRB itself, and the AP newswire, PROBE will now outline the struggle going on in the capitol.

When the ARRB moves to release a batch of documents from an agency's files, that agency has the privilege to request a private conference with the Board to try to convince them of other options other than full disclosure e.g. postponement or non-release. A worst case postponement can last well into the next century. Our sources tell us that the original release pattern planned by the ARRB has been altered. The pattern originally held that another batch of solely CIA documents from Oswald's CIA HQ file were to be released next. Then a combination of 15 FBI and 2 CIA documents concerning Oswald's trip to Mexico City were to be third. The Board had originally agreed on this sequence. The CIA then requested another audience with the Board to request postponement on the CIA HQ release. This audience was granted. During this delay, the third release went ahead and will be uncontested on the CIA's part. After their conference with the CIA, our information is that the Board is now reconsidering their original intent to release the documents in full. The FBI has been more overt about the scheduled release of 15 documents. They have appealed the release of 9 of these to President Clinton. According to the ARRB, the FBI contested files relate to Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party USA, and Ruby's shooting of Oswald.

Sources and Methods, yeah yeah yeah...

The objections seem to be on the usual grounds of the sensitivity of "methods and sources" and damage to our intelligence relationships with foreign countries, i.e. intelligence sources and agents inside foreign countries. Since the Board has seen the documents and are well aware of the standard line on "national security" one can't help but wonder how that antique warning could be sounded three decades later and with the Cold War finished.

The Board's Recommendation

We quote from Mr. Marwell's letter to President Clinton dated August 11th:

Dear Mr. President:
I have the honor of submitting to you the enclosed Reply of the Assassination Records Review Board to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's August 8, 1995 Appeal of Formal Determinations under The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.
There are two principal points made in our Reply. First, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has failed to provide the "clear and convincing evidence" required by the JFK Act; and second, much of the information that the Bureau now wishes to redact has already been officially released by the Bureau. We respectfully request that you carefully consider the merits of the arguments raised in our Reply.
In making its formal determinations, the Board carefully considered the assassination records in question and determined that the public interest in the release of all of the information contained in them outweighted the insufficient evidence that the FBI had offered in support of continued secrecy. The Review Board has, and will, postpone the release of information in cases where the statutorily mandated "clear and convincing evidence" is supplied and that evidence outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
A copy of the enclosed Reply, classified SECRET, is being sumitted under separate cover to Marvin Krislov, Associate Counsel at The White House."

The contents page of the 26 page reply to the FBI's appeal shows that the ARRB has come down on the research community's side on this issue:

Part I: The JFK Act Presumes Disclosure of Assassination Records
Part II: The FBI's Informant Postponements
A. The FBI Failed To Meet Its Statutory Obligation to Provide Clear and Convincing Evidence
B. The FBI's "Broad-Brush" Arguments Against Release of Information About Informants Should be Rejected
C. In the Absence of Clear and Convincing Evidence to the Contrary, the JFK Act Requires Full and Immediate Release of the Appealed Documents
Part III: The FBI's "Foreign Relations" Postponements

We back the belief in total candor. In fact we think its the only tenable view today. We trust the Review Board's judgment since it is certainly not composed of fringe, or irresponsible professionals. In fact, in Graff and Hall, it contains two former intelligence employees. Does anyone believe they would vote to endanger "national security"? It is a critical time and we are glad it came early. Here and elsewhere, we urge everyone to call or fax the White House, and FBI Director Mr. Freeh to make their voices heard on this momentous issue. Mr. Clinton must back the ARRB in this first appeal by the FBI to the White House. These appeals for secrecy and non-review have led the Bureau into suspicion on the King case, and culpability in Ruby Ridge and Waco. Let this appeal fall where the previous ones should have: on deaf ears.

~ Jim DiiEugenio

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