Old U.S. Mint
400 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana
Wednesday, June 28, 1995
The above-entitled public hearing commenced, pursuant to notice, at 10:00 a.m.
JOHN R. TUNHEIM,
PRESENT FOR THE BOARD:
KERMIT L. HALL, Member
WILLIAM L. JOYCE, Member
ANNA K. NELSON, Member
DAVID G. MARWELL, Executive Director
THE HONORABLE LINDY BOGGS
THE HONORABLE HARRY F. CONNICK, SR.
MICHAEL L. KURTZ
CYNTHIA ANNE WEGMANN
STEVEN D. TILLEY
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: A call to order, this public hearing of the Assassination Records Review Board. And welcome everyone here to our hearing today in New Orleans. We're very happy to be here.
We're happy to be in New Orleans for a number of different reasons: The importance of this city in terms of overall understanding of this very tragic event, the assassination of President Kennedy, the fact that the only criminal prosecution associated with the assassination of President Kennedy took place here in New Orleans, and the fact that the prime suspect in the case, Lee Harvey Oswald, was born here and spent time here in the months before the assassination.
We are on a search for records. Our mandate from the Congress of the United States is to find all of the records associated with the assassination of President Kennedy, put them all together in one collection at the National Archives freely available to the American public to review, to come in, to study, to understand and to make their own minds up about what happened on that tragic day in Dallas 31 plus years ago.
It's important for closure to this event to have a complete collection of the records, and while one of our central focuses as a Board is a review of Federal records, particularly records that are held at the CIA and the FBI and other Federal investigative agencies, records that we are in the process of reviewing now, we are also interested in state and local records, and records that are in private hands because, as I said, what we'd like to see in the end and what the Congress has tasked us with is creating as complete a collection of the records of the assassination of President Kennedy as possibly can be done in this period of time years later.
Just a short bit of history. The Assassination Records Review Board was created by an act of Congress passed in 1992 and signed into law by President Bush. Within the following year, the Board members were appointed, confirmed by the Senate and we have the begun the process of surveying records in the Federal Government.
We, in fact, just last week ordered the release in full of 16 records that were held by the CIA, records that had been only partially released in the past. We're hopeful that those records will be available to the public and to researchers within the next month. So the process of reviewing the records is underway.
We've held other public hearings. We held a public hearing in Dallas, a public hearing in Boston. Part of our mission is to communicate with the American public, to give you an opportunity to let us know where records are. It's very important for us to have the cooperation and assistance of the public because we can't possibly know where all the records are ourselves. So our appeal to the public is to let us know where records are, even if you don't know for sure, if you have a hunch. We're happy to follow up on any leads that anyone might have.
I have to emphasize that it's not the role of this board to reinvestigate the assassination of President Kennedy. It's not our responsibility to come up with a conclusion as to what happened in Dallas 30 years ago. But it is our responsibility to find the records and we have sufficient powers to be able to do that, as given to us by the Congress.
We're a short term agency. We will sunset on October 1 of 1997. We fully expect to be done with our work by that time and hopefully in the end we will have a collection of millions of records at the National Archives that will be freely available to the public and to researchers. And then the public, hopefully, will be able to understand and make up their own minds about what happened, the assassination.
A couple of other points. The Board has met in the past to discuss and finally approve a definition of what an assassination record is. It's my understanding that the final definition is published today in the "Federal Register." So that process is now been completed.
I also want to make a special note of thanks before we begin to Lyon Garrison and the Garrison family, who have donated records from the personal files of Jim Garrison to the Board for inclusion in the public collection of the JFK assassination records. So I'd like to just publicly acknowledge that donation and thank the Garrison family for their willingness to make Mr. Garrison's records part of the national collection related to the assassination of President Kennedy.
I want to extend a special welcome to all of you here today and especially our
witnesses. As I said, we're on the search of records and that's the focus of
the testimony today, where records might be, leads that we might be able to
follow. This is an issue of trust for the American public, an issue of trust
in their government, and we hope that through our work we can restore some of
the trust that perhaps has been lost over the past 30 years with the veil of
secrecy that has shrouded some of the records of this very tragic event.