Sunday, December 8, 2013
By DAVID PORTER, The Associated Press
(Continued from page 2)
Blakey, the committee's chief counsel, recalled how the CIA brought in Joannides to act as a middleman to help fill requests for documents made by committee researchers. "He was put in a position to edit everything we were given before it was given to us," Blakey said.
But Blakey didn't learn about Joannides' past until Morley unearthed it in files declassified years later.
"If I'd known Joannides was the case officer for the DRE, he couldn't have been liaison; he would have been a witness," Blakey told The Associated Press.
Blakey added: "Do I think I was snookered, precisely like the Warren Commission was? Yes."
WHICH BRINGS us back to the still-secret investigative files – about 300 pages of which relate to Joannides.
First, some background:
Certain files held by the Warren Commission and House Select Committee were originally ordered sealed, for privacy, security and other considerations, well into the 21st century.
Decades passed before public pressure spurred by Oliver Stone's 1991 film "JFK" changed that.
Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which established the Assassination Records Review Board, or ARRB, to carry out release of records related to the assassination. As a result, about five million pages of documents have been released and are available for review at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland.
But the review board agreed to withhold about 1,100 records – each record comprises 1-20 pages – that are considered to contain information about confidential sources or methods or have national security implications.
The JFK Act required all records to be released by 2017, but it left some wiggle room for agencies to petition to have records withheld if disclosure would compromise "military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations."
It is unknown whether the CIA will try to keep some documents classified past 2017; if it does, that may only increase Morley's resolve.
"You have to wonder what is so important in a 50-year-old document," he said. "I've come to the conclusion that they're guarding something big, and that has stiffened my determination."
A CIA spokesman, Ned Price, said the agency has complied with the law in releasing documents and the archives center "has all of the Agency's documents and files on the Kennedy assassination. Price didn't comment on the Joannides material specifically, citing Morley's lawsuit.
"The classified information contained in the files remains subject to the declassification provisions of the Act," he said.
Meanwhile, the documents sit in metal boxes on shelves in "a big room that's temperature- and humidity-controlled," said Martha Murphy, the Archives' chief of special access and Freedom of Information Act requests.
Among those are the Joannides files. An index created by the CIA and provided to The Associated Press by Morley describes many of the files as containing information on Joannides' travel, training and personnel evaluations as well as memos pertaining to the CIA's interactions with the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Morley's interest dates to the 1990s when he covered the newly-formed ARRB. He filed suit for the Joannides documents in 2003 and has pried loose several hundred pages since then.
A federal judge dismissed the case in 2010. But in June, a federal appeals court overruled a lower court that had denied Morley's request to be reimbursed for attorneys' fees. "Records about individuals allegedly involved in President Kennedy's assassination serve a public benefit," the decision said.
Morley does not suggest the Joannides files point to agency involvement in the assassination itself, but more likely that their release would show the CIA trying to keep secret its own flawed performance before the assassination.
"The idea that Lee Harvey Oswald was some unknown quantity to CIA officers was false," Morley said. "There was this incredible high-level attention to Oswald on the eve of the assassination."
Assuming that Oswald fired the fatal shot, he said, "These top CIA case officers are guilty of negligence."
Blakey isn't optimistic about getting all of the documents from the intelligence agency.
"They held stuff back from the Warren Commission, they held stuff back from us, they held stuff back from the ARRB," he said. "That's three agencies that they were supposed to be fully candid with. And now they're taking the position that some of these documents can't be released even today.
"Why are they continuing to fight tooth and nail to avoid doing something they'd promised to do?"