Open Letter from JFK Assassination Expert Dan Hardway

© Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from sarang / Wikimedia and CIA / Wikimedia.
The following is an article about an open letter Dan Hardway sent to his senator. Hardway worked as an investigator on the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late 1970s, and is a noted expert on the JFK assassination. He calls on all people interested in transparency to reject an all-encompassing government secrecy that threatens our very liberty and democracy. - WhoWhatWhy Staff

A 1964 CIA memo spells out clearly how James Jesus Angleton, the agency's famous counterintelligence chief, wanted to deal with inquiries from the Warren Commission:

Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission.1

History seems to be repeating itself. The events of the past two weeks have shown that the CIA is still running a disinformation campaign against anyone who questions the "lone-nut" theory that, according to historian David Robarge, constitutes the agency's "best truth."

I recently published an article about the delay in releasing records under the 1992 JFK Records Collections Act. In that article I explained the CIA's play to discredit those who question the agency's lone-nut theory,2 and suggested that Robarge, its historian, has told us what to look for in the documents that are still being withheld.3
There has been no explanation, let alone a presidential certification, that the massive redactions in these "released in full" documents meet any of the mandatory exemptions that allow withholding. No identifiable harm is specified. No rationale is given as to why the secrets protected outweigh the public interest in disclosure.
In that article I suggested we should look for information regarding covert operations against Cuba that would, according to Robarge, "circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories."4 While I doubt the existence of a "smoking gun," the circumstantial evidence we might look for in the delayed files could show a correlation between Lee Harvey Oswald's activities in New Orleans and Mexico City in the late summer and fall of 1963 and CIA covert operations against Cuba being run by George Joannides and David Atlee Phillips involving anti-Castro groups such as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE).5

I specifically suggested that we look to files on those operations. Some of these files are in the JFK records that are scheduled for release.

© CIA / JFKFacts
George Joannides (left) receiving a commendation from Bobby Inman.
On October 26, 1992, Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition. The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), was signed the same day by President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526, ("JFK Records Act"). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with minimal exceptions.

It mandates, in clear and unambiguous language, "[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act." The Act allows an exemption to this mandatory requirement only if the president "certifies" that the release of each withheld document "is made necessary by an identifiable harm to" either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and "the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure."6

On November 3, NARA released some of the files that I have been waiting on. The Excel spreadsheet listing the released files include four files referenced to David Atlee Phillips and one file referenced to the DRE.7 Of the files referencing Phillips, three are of an unspecified nature and one is listed as his Office of Personnel (OP) file. The DRE file is listed as "CIA file on DRE AMSPELL operations."

AMSPELL is a CIA cryptonym for DRE, the anti-Castro Cuban group that was run by George Joannides in 1963, that had the encounter with Oswald in New Orleans in 1963, and published the first conspiracy theory blaming Castro in their CIA-financed newspaper in Miami on November 23, 1963. For such an active group, the file that was released is a very thin 87 pages of which 61 are expurgated in full.

© Unknown / JFKFacts
November 23, 1963, leaders of anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate (DRE) newspaper link Lee Harvey Oswald in conspiracy with Fidel Castro to assassinate JFK.
Of the remaining 26 pages, many are largely expurgated. The Phillips files are even worse. The three files of unspecified type may be some of his operational files. These files are even more highly expurgated than the AMSPELL file. Taking the 73-pages long file RIF 104-10177-10135 as an example, a full 48 pages are completely redacted and NOTHING that was released in the file has any substantive info. For all intents and purposes, it remains withheld in full.

The file that is listed as David Atlee Phillips's OP file is not as heavily redacted as the other three Phillips files, although many of the documents - mainly personnel forms - it contains have been cleansed of any significant data. That, however, is not the end of the story on this file.

The file starts with a few items of post-retirement correspondence between Phillips and the CIA in 1975 and then proceeds chronologically backwards from his retirement in 1975. I have not yet been able to go through the 358-page file to carefully study all the documents, but I have gone through it well enough to note that all his fitness reports between 1956 and 1965 are missing - not redacted, just simply not there.

Indeed, so far as I have been able to find, there is no record whatsoever of a document in the file dated between 1961 and 1965 - not redacted, just simply not there.

There has been no explanation, let alone a presidential certification, that the massive redactions in these "released in full" documents meet any of the mandatory exemptions that allow withholding. No identifiable harm is specified. No rationale is given as to why the secrets protected outweigh the public interest in disclosure.

These files are not in compliance with the law no matter what the mainstream media says.

They are an in-your-face flipped bird to the American public. They basically tell us that the CIA is saying that it doesn't have to comply with the law of the land and that it will not tell us its secrets and that there is nothing we can do about it.

I've been here before. It was in a small room in CIA Headquarters in late 1978. I had been fighting to see a file generated by the CIA debriefing of its hired mafioso Johnny Roselli. Scott Breckinridge and George Joannides, CIA liaisons with the HSCA, had just handed me a highly redacted file that violated the HSCA/CIA Memorandum of Understanding mandating unexpurgated access by HSCA to CIA files.

They stood by, grinning, as they watched my reaction upon opening the file to find it largely expurgated. They were grinning so hard because they knew they had waited out the HSCA and there was nothing I could do about it. The Angleton strategy still worked. It is still working today.

© Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from National Counterintelligence Center / Wikimedia
James Jesus Angleton
This release not only demonstrates that the Angleton strategy is still being applied; it also illustrates the point I have been making about what they are covering up. There may well be nothing we can do about it. It appears our lawmakers are spineless in the face of the intelligence community. Joseph Burkholder Smith, a retired CIA officer, told me and fellow investigator Gaeton Fonzi in 1978, "You represent Congress. What the f*** is that to the CIA? You'll be gone in two years and the CIA will still be there."

To paraphrase that to fit the situation in which we now find ourselves: "You are the people that Congress supposedly represents. What's that to the CIA? You'll forget about it in a few weeks or so."

But I won't. I wrote a letter to my senator, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, on November 3 before I saw the travesty that was the day's release of JFK documents by NARA. Probably a futile gesture, but one I had to take anyway. Here's part of what I told him:

On October 26, 2017, as I am sure you are aware, President Donald Trump, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence community members, disregarded the clear provisions of the law and postponed release of ninety percent of the remaining withheld documents in the JFK Records Collection for an additional six months. In doing this, the President made no findings, issued no orders and certified nothing, merely issuing a statement through the press office saying that all documents will be released "with redactions only in the rarest of circumstances" by April 26, 2018.

The President's action was not only without authority in law, it was also taken in patent violation of the clear, unambiguous and mandatory terms of a law that your institution passed. ...

The real problem that this presents is that it is showing to the nation that the intelligence agencies of our nation are not subject to the laws of the nation. They are effectively above the law. At their request, or pressure, the President of the United States will violate the clear mandates of enacted legislation. And, to date, the reaction of our elected representatives in Congress seems to reinforce the fact that no one is willing to stand up to such blatant disregard of the clear provisions of the duly enacted laws of the nation. I understand that it is the executive branch that is charged with the enforcement of the laws your branch enacts and, in this case, it is the executive branch that is violating the law so there can be little realistic expectation of enforcement from them. But this is the heart of the problem and why it is incumbent upon the Congress to act. At a minimum there should be oversight hearings. At a minimum the Congress should not be seen to willingly acquiesce in executive contempt for the Legislative branch of government and the law of the land.

This action on the part of the intelligence community, the National Archives, and the Executive is only the latest in a long string of actions that disregard the provisions of the JFK Records Act that also subvert and cover up the information related to the assassination of our 35th president. Those other actions are beyond the present scope of this letter, but are things about which I would be glad to speak with you if you have any interest, so I will not go into them here.

To my knowledge there has been no coverage or explanation of why the intelligence community has requested this delay of the President. It was made in secret. What reason have they given for the delay? What kind of pressure have they brought to bear? How can they force a president to so blatantly disregard the law? If they can do this in regard to disclosure of fifty-year-old records, in what else can they exercise a like secret influence that corrupts the laws of the nation? What affect does the existence and use of such secret power have on our democracy? If these things - not just the documents but the method of influence - remain always secret, then how can a citizenry be sufficiently informed so as to exercise their franchise to any real purpose? How can we have faith in our democracy, let alone our government, if this kind of practice is allowed to continue unchallenged? These are the questions that I would like to have answered. But, to make it easier for you, I note you are in a unique position in regard to these issues due to your membership on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Are you at least going to call and press for public hearings on any of these issues? Or are you going to join the vast majority of our representatives and once again cower before the intelligence agencies? Will you stand up for your constituents' right to participate in their government on an informed basis? Will you stand for holding our government to a standard of open honesty before its citizens and against allowing the real affairs of state to be conducted in secret and in disregard of the laws enacted by the people's representatives?8

The questions I asked Manchin in that letter are even more pressing today. I don't know if he'll even answer, let alone do anything. Maybe, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), he'll send out an apparently frustrated tweet. Or maybe, like the mainstream press, he'll tout the release of the documents, hoping no one will look to see what a travesty the "release" is because of the massive redactions. At this point all I can do is try to tell the truth about this whole state of affairs.

I also encourage you to not take this insult to your intelligence and ability to govern yourselves without reaction. Do something. If nothing else, circulate this article to everyone you know. Refuse to accept the cancer of secrecy that destroys our liberty and ability to govern ourselves. Get involved. Get informed. Stay informed. Read and follow http://2017jfk.org/home/ and http://jfkfacts.org/. Read WhoWhatWhy.

Join the AARC at http://aarclibrary.org/aarc-membership/. Join CAPA at http://capa-us.org/membership/. If those who exercise the power in this country have such blatant contempt for the law, then the time for serious peaceful civil disobedience may be upon us. Get the word out. Don't be silent any longer. This is not an issue of the left or the right. Do something. Say something. And don't stop until you are heard.

Endnotes .

1. Raymond Rocca to Richard Helms, Memo Re Response to Rankin, 5 Mar 1964, NARA Record No. 1993.06.24.14:59:13:840170, available at https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=98075#relPageId=1&tab=page

2. David Robarge, "DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy," Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, at page 20. Available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF. Robarge wrote: "The DCI was complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission's agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed at the time was the 'best truth': that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy." For my commentary on the CIA's "best truth", see Thank You, Phil Shenon available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2015/10/. Note that the "best truth" was conditioned by "at the time" leaving open the real possibility that alternative cover stories may have to be brought to play in the event that time undermined what the Agency considered to be the best truth for them.

3. Dan Hardway, What Were They Hiding and What Should We Look For, 30 Oct 2017, available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-were-they-hiding-and-what-should_30.html

4. Robarge, n. 2 above, at p. 9.

5. This is addressed in more detail at JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway-declaration-cia-stonewalled-jfkinvestigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.

6. 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note § 5(g)(2)(D). Emphasis added.

7. https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/2017-release, RIF Nos. 104-10176-10121, 104-10177-10135, 104-10177-10134, 104-10194-10026, and 104-10170-10121.

8. See here for the full letter.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Dan Hardway (C-SPAN) and National Archives (Bossi / Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0).