Massachusetts State House
Room A-1, 1st Floor
Friday, March 24, 1995
The above-entitled meeting commenced, pursuant to notice, at 10:02 a.m.
JOHN R. TUNHEIM, Chair; Minnesota Chief Deputy
DAVID MARWELL, Executive Director
DR. KERMIT L. HALL; Dean, College of Humanities,
and Professor of History at The Ohio State
DR. WILLIAM L. JOYCE; Associates University
Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections
at Princeton University
DR. ANNA K. NELSON; Adjunct Professor of History
at American University
GEORGE MICHAEL EVICA
PHILIP H. MELANSON; Political Science Professor at
the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and
the author of Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and
U.S. Intelligence, published in 1990
PRISCILLA JOHNSON McMILLAN; History Professor at
the Harvard Russian Research Center and the
author of Marina and Lee, published in 1977
RICHARD TRASK; Author of Pictures of the Pain:
Photography and the Assassination of President
Kennedy, published in 1994
STEVE TILLEY; National Archives
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Call this meeting of the Assassination Records Review Board to order.
We're glad to be here in Boston today. I'm going to give a brief introductory statement, but first I'd like to introduce the members of the board and staff who are up here today with me.
To your left, far left, is Dr. William Joyce, board member, and Dr. Anna Nelson, board member, and to your right, your far right, Dr. Kermit Hall, who is a member of the board, and David Marwell, who is the executive director of the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board.
Dr. Henry Graff, who is a review board member, was unable to join us in Boston today.
The Assassination Records Review Board was created by Congress in October of 1992, signed into law by President Bush. We were appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate and sworn in about 11 months ago.
Much of our first year has been spent organizing the staff, getting the group ready to go, but let me tell you a little bit about our obligations under the law.
It's not the job of the Assassination Records Review Board to solve the mysteries related to the assassination of President Kennedy, but it is the job of the review board to find all of the records that are available today that had never been available before to the American public and share those records with the American public.
We have decisions to make on some of the records as to whether they can be released immediately or whether they will have postponed release dates, and we are about to begin that effort in the upcoming several months.
But first and foremost is our responsibility to find records wherever they are at. Obviously, many records are still housed within the agencies of the Federal Government, and many of those records are in Washington.
We have been working closely with the agencies that have records, providing guidance to them on what constitutes an assassination record and how broad their search for records should be today.
We are also engaged in a hunt for records in other parts of the country. In Boston, we spent time yesterday at the JFK Library, with the library staff. Obviously, there are records there that are of great interest to us.
We had a very fruitful set of meetings yesterday with library staff, who were very cooperative with us, and we hope that, in the months to come, there will be further releases coming out through the library.
We are also interested in records that individuals may have. There are individuals who were in government service during the 1960s who still have records, and we're interested in obtaining copies of those records for the collection.
I might add that records include more than simply documents. It includes photographs. It includes any kind of information that bears on the assassination of President Kennedy in one way, shape, or form.
We are in the process of adopting a definition of what an assassination record is. That definition will, of necessity, be quite broad.
It is up to the review board, in the final instance, to determine whether a record is an assassination record, and so, it is incumbent on us to define the issue somewhat broadly so that we can sweep in as many records as possible that have some potential bearing on the assassination of President Kennedy.
We are also looking for records in the hands of state and local archives, state governments. We are also beginning our effort to seek out the records of foreign governments that may have information in them regarding the assassination of President Kennedy.
This was a very tragic event in the history of our country, a very tragic event, probably the crime of this century.
The fact that there are so many questions that are still lingering in the minds of the American public is significant to us, and we want to do our best to uncover records that will help the public understand more fully what happened both before, during, and after the assassination of the President.
We have about two-and-a-half further years to complete this effort. We are due to sunset on October 1 of 1997. We expect that we will be done with our effort by that time. I don't think the American public wants a many-years effort to try to further uncover records on the assassination of President Kennedy. So, we will be quick with our work.
We have held a number of public hearings in our effort to reach out to the American public. The Congress was very clear to us in passage of this act and during our confirmation proceedings that they wanted this board to be a public board, a board that reached out to the public to gather information, to share with the public what we were doing.
Many of the prior official actions that have been taken by our government related to the assassination of President Kennedy have been very secretive, and Congress wanted to change that, and we are very mindful of that fact, and that's one of the reasons why we are trying to hold some of our meetings outside of Washington, make them available to interested members of the public, as we are here today in Boston.
I want to thank the Senate President and the House Speaker for allowing us to have our public meeting today in the State House, very helpful to us to be able to use this very fine public facility, and we thank them very much.
We have also recently moved into our new offices in Washington at 600 E Street, Northwest. The address will be available to any of you, and our telephone numbers, if you wish to communicate any information to us, to our staff. We encourage you to do so.
If you have information or have ideas, particularly on where there are records that we should be hunting for, we'd like to hear about that, and please let us know, and you can pick up our address and our telephone number here today.
The board really has now virtually completed its organizational effort. We have a staff in place. Many of the staff now have the necessary security clearances so that we can move forward with review of Federal records, and so, that process is about to begin.
It's taken a while to get organized, but it certainly takes a while to organize a new independent Federal agency, and let me emphasize that we are independent. We are not part of any other agency of the Federal Government.
We are an independent Federal agency within the Executive Branch, appointed by the President but with Senate confirmation, so that we are not subject to any kind of oversight by any of the existing Federal agencies, and I think that's important to the independence of this effort.
I mentioned we spent time at the JFK Library yesterday. We have also spent time at the Johnson Library in Austin, Texas. We held a public hearing in Dallas in November, which was very interesting and brought forth a good deal of information.
We've held five public hearings -- or public hearings and meetings in Washington, and this is our second public hearing outside of the Nation's Capital here today in Boston.
As I said, our focus today is to gather input on where assassination records are.
We have a group of witnesses that we have asked to testify today and are prepared to help provide us with advice, witnesses who are researchers, who have worked in the field, and have written about the assassination of President Kennedy. So, we're very much looking forward to hearing from them.
I'd like to ask if any of the other board members have any preliminary statements to make before we go ahead with the meeting.