Testimony of Debbie Conway

Before the Assassination Records Review Board - 4/2/97
3 (3:35 p.m.)

4 JUDGE TUNHEIM: The board is now going to

5 come back into session. We have an additional witness

6 on the question of the Zapruder camera-original film

7 that we would like to hear from now, Debra Conway. Ms.

8 Conway?

9 MS. CONWAY: For those of you who have not

10 met me, I am Debra Conway. I came all the way from Los

11 Angeles to be with you today. I want to thank all the

12 the board members, David Marwell and all of the

13 distinguished speakers that came before me today.

14 I would like to take this opportunity to

15 speak on behalf ot the active JFK assassination

16 research community. I have no personal agenda other

17 than to show support of the board's past efforts and to

18 applaud your decision to address the status of the

19 Zapruder film. However, I would like to bring to your

20 attention additional actions that the board should take

21 related to the matter at hand. And let me explain.

22 Recently the Zapruder film was the subject of


1 what I would consider a major workshop and symposium at

2 the JFK Lancer Conference held in Dallas in November of

3 '96. Though important new research and questions on

4 the film were presented, we were severely hindered by

5 the lack of access to a verified copy of the original

6 film, studies of the original film, a control film

7 taken with the original camera, the camera itself, and

8 the first section of film not taken at Dealey Plaza.

9 I have with me for the board today copies of

10 that Zapruder film symposium from the conference which

11 will include different information on the different

12 versions of the film.

13 Many photographic materials of evidence in

14 the murder case are kept under less than satisfactory

15 conditions in various locations. Neither the private

16 owners (one who has kept her film in a locked box while

17 aupposedly trying to sell it for the last 33 years),

18 not the government (who has always protected -- not

19 always protected the photographs and films from being

20 damaged) and not even the research community, some of

21 whom seem to have problems being collectors -- none

22 have been the best of caretakers up to now.


1 Action that I feel the board could take: The

2 decision you make on the Zapruder film's status as it

3 falls under the language and spirit of the JFK Act must

4 also effect other photographs and films of

5 assassination related events. I ask you to be bold and

6 to use the JFK Act to collect and protect the original

7 of these items. Lock boxes and shoe boxes are not

8 acceptable repositories. Saving a piece of film for

9 years until the value raises and lawsuits over who owns

10 what have brought research on the Zapruder film and

11 these other pieces of photography and films to a halt.

12 The value of scholars' and researchers'

13 access to these items must be placed above those of

14 private owners, private collectors or museums. Let the

15 owners continue their collection of fees for use of

16 films or photos and even maintain ownership,

17 copyrights, be compensated. However, you must insist

18 that the originals of these most important films and

19 photographs be properly housed in the government

20 archives and never allowed to be sold. While I am a

21 firm believer in the American free enterprise system

22 and the rights of property holders, these must be


1 exceptions. The issue of ownership, copyrights and

2 "show me the money," secondary to the need to assign

3 these materials permanent protection as JFK

4 assassination documents.

5 Thank you.

6 JUDGE TUNHEIM: Thank you Ms. Conway. Are

7 there questions, members of the board?

8 MS. NELSON: Assuming we have to pay for it,

9 the film, we being the American taxpayers, I will ask

10 you the question I have asked others: Where do you

11 stop, what is the ceiling? Is it of such value that we

12 don't set a ceiling?

13 MS. CONWAY: That is a question I have asked

14 myself the last few days that I have been here. In

15 fact, I must have rewritten my statement to you four or

16 five times because I thought it is priceless to me as a

17 researcher. However, as a citizen, I don't feel that

18 we should be held ransom by the Zapruder family. And I

19 am afraid -- as soon as you announce price controls,

20 that is what the price goes up to. I can remember the

21 Nixon Presidency very clearly on that matter.

22 I think that someone here today made a great


1 point in the audience, and that was that after the

2 Jackie Onassis auction we should be very fearful of

3 what a collector would offer the Zapruder family for

4 this film. We should be very fearful of what someone

5 would be willing to pay just for the copyrights. I

6 think it is two separate issues, the ownership and the

7 copyright. I agree with the speakers before me who

8 said the family should donate the film. I think they

9 have made enough money. But I know that is not

10 answering your question. I would advise you to --

11 MS. NELSON: There is no answer --

12 MS. CONWAY: Do research on what they have

13 been paid. Once you make that public, maybe they

14 should be shamed into donating it. Maybe you need to

15 use the President and the public to help you with that.

16 MS. NELSON: It is, of course, their private

17 property, in their view. I was just curious -- I

18 didn't expect a monetary answer because that is an

19 issue that we have to consider as board members, but

20 also as taxpayers, as responsible members to the

21 Congress, especially in this current era, of what our

22 decision is.


1 MS. CONWAY: I was aware that compensation

2 was a factor. Looking at the Nixon papers, I was

3 unaware that compensation was a part of that Act. I

4 wish I had known that before. I would continue to look

5 into any other -- the same as you have attorneys doing,

6 any time that compensation became a factor. Again, I

7 would research what the film was worth in the past and

8 get several appraisers to come in and assist you, which

9 I am sure you are going to do. But I don't think the

10 American people or the citizen of the world should be

11 held hostage by this family's right to something that

12 may already belong to us and should belong to us. Be

13 bold.

14 MR. GRAFF: I just would like to say as a

15 fellow researcher, I share your passion about the

16 documents and records and so on. Are you working on a

17 particular aspect of the assassination yourself?

18 MS. CONWAY: I do help the authors and

19 researchers and on the side, my favorite, the spy

20 world, I love to read about Mexico City and what was

21 going on with the CIA. But I see myself more as a

22 facilitator to keep the dialogue going. It doesn't


1 bother me that there is debate and disagreement and

2 discussion. I encourage that.

3 MS. NELSON: We have been very bold on Mexico

4 City. You have a lot of new documents.

5 MS. CONWAY: I am very happy.

6 JUDGE TUNHEIM: Thank you. We appreciate you

7 coming all this way.

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