Testimony of John Newman

Hearing of 10/11/94 -- Washington, DC.
Our next witness this morning is Dr. John Newman from the organization called the Coalition on Political Assassinations in Washington, D.C. After Dr. Newman I believe we will take a very short break.

MR. NEWMAN: Good morning, Chairman Tunheim and members of the Board. Thank you very much for having me here.

In my COPA hat, I was asked by Director Marwell to assemble and provide that separately, we have accumulated quite a stack of requests for specific records groups from across the United States. My comments this morning really come as a private historian who writes about that period, who teaches about that period.

I am a member of the AHA, and in that regard, if I could just tack on a couple of quick comments to my colleague, Dr. Page Putnam Miller, the cables, for example, to Miami and to the Mexican City CI Station is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have been working this issue with Steve Tilley and the National Archives. We are missing large blocks of those messages, in both instances. The critical period, I would say, beginning somewhere around just before Oswald's trip to Mexico City up through and just after the assassination, and I have spoken with the agency about this and they asked me to wait for the latest release. I looked at that. We do have some more materials there, but ultimately we are still going to have to see the entire blocks to satisfy at least this individual historian, but I believe, as she identified, a very important set of records that clearly we should include in assassination records.

Also anti-Cuban operations, absolutely, we are on Main Street here. Meat and potatoes, how much meat and potatoes, I am not really sure we have that many yet. I think it is clear we have some. I am really happy to see what I think it is a good genuine release, but I am counting now some 120 compartments, various cryptonyms in anti-Cuban operations, and most of these boxes are pretty empty. We would like to see at least something in each one of them to satisfy ourselves that they are or are not. So we have a lot of work to do still in the anti-Cuban area.

HT Lingual, if I could just make a very quick comment on that question, I think the issue for us is the early timing of putting Oswald under mail cover without a 201 file. It is a very unusual configuration, only 300 people were on the mail cover list at that point in time, so Oswald was obviously very important. This is a problem of the Agency's perception of him as a threat or as a benign person, and clearly something we will want to see, and there are many records still being withheld related to the Lingual problem. You will be the judge of whether or not we, as the American public, have the right to see it. Maybe it is too sensitive, maybe it isn't, but clearly the Lingual Program, because it relates to the Agency's perception of the alleged murder is going to be something you will want to include as assassination-related records.

Finally, policy context, somebody asked about that. I think you have to look at the policy context to a certain extent. I don't have the formula for you, but we can't ignore it. It has been too much a part of the theorizing about the case to not look at, say, Viet Nam or Cuba or arms control. These issues, in some way, shape or form, are going to have to be included and, I am sorry, I don't have a quick working definition for you, but we can't, I would say, ignore it totally.

I think that what we are talking about is going to be distilling some ideas from many people, including your own. I am not going to add my own pat definition. I think there are some very good points in Mr. Lesar's presentation. I would also, since I have already seen it, I endorse my colleague Peter Dale Scott, who will talk to you about some postulates that I think would be interesting food for thought in this regard, and I am going to offer one of my own this morning.

As I call it, the principle of the adjacent square, and the way I would like to illustrate that -- and to begin, I am going to talk about several agencies really quick here, the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the United States Army. Let me just begin with the CIA, and offer this, whenever a researcher or the Board, or whoever, whenever someone can demonstrate that there has been a deception or a falsified document or a lie, where it can be shown, demonstrated, in the documents themselves, I think that this is a serious matter, and that automatically it raises suspicion. That, therefore, we ought to have the right to look at every adjacent square on the chessboard.

To illustrate what I am talking about, and I am perfectly prepared to provide the documentation to this Board, the Agency lied about its knowledge of when Lee Harvey Oswald entered the Cuban Consulate. We have documents which show this. We Director Helms' contemporaneous statements to the Warren Commission, and today this is a serious matter because it relates to several cables in October of 1963, apparently about Oswald's visit, that are still classified.

The whole subject of what Oswald does in Mexico City is on Main Street in this case, and that is one example I use. There are two or three more I could talk about, internal CIA memoranda or cables to their own stations that are wrong, that are clearly not true. Now whether they are lies or they are deception operations or counter-intelligence operations is not for me to guess, it is for us to see if this material is releasable. Then I would be willing to venture a guess about what is in those files, but clearly there are some deceptions, there are some things that were not true, for whatever the reason, and in that instance I think we have to be very serious about getting to the bottom of it, at least the Board will have to be, and to make those determinations as to what we can see.

But, on balance, I must say, I like what I see from the CIA, in general terms. It is the most extensive, and I think they have been very honest about categorizing and listing and requesting postponement waiting your decision, although I just say, there are tens of thousands of pages still being withheld by the CIA on some very important issues and I just mentioned one, Mexico City. So it is not over, but I think we shouldn't be overly pessimistic or optimistic at this point. I think we are moving in the right direction.

I can't say that with respect to the National Security Agency, and I did characterize the release for you at the last meeting as approximately 90 documents, 45 of which were AP and UPI tickers, 45 of which were overhead, we will meet you here and there, and one document on Oswald's notebook or some missing letters that were cut out, and was it or was it not a cryptographic code of some sort, and that was the one NSA document.

I have given you a document this morning in which you will see, at the bottom of it, I have highlighted it in yellow, handle comment. It is sort of half there, but those of who have been in government would recognize the classification there of "handle via comment channels only." I was afraid I couldn't say that, but I have managed to find four documents in the files that have that classification on it, so I feel that I can say the words.

What that is, of course, is NSA derived information and what is interesting about the document at which you are looking is that it was regraded. Not just that it is blacked out, but it was classified upgraded to top secret in 1977. By whom we are not told, but my guess is, from the HVCCO caveat on the bottom, that we are talking about NSA material.

I could have brought you many more, but in the interest of time, I will just tell you that I have seen in the new Church release many boxes of newly released material, and I lost count at around ten or 15 instances where the NSA in 1994 has asked for portions to be deleted.

Now, I ask you, if the NSA has no material, how can they delete material from these pieces of paper. I presume since it is NSA originated information that it also exists in NSA. Therefore, whether or not we get to see it, they must list it. You must see it for us and make that determination. I am not satisfied that the NSA is stepping up to the plate with as much rigor as other Federal agencies are, and I think this is a serious problem. I will say no more about that.

The FBI is an interesting situation. I have begun working with Dr. Joyce a little bit on this issue and have already submitted to the Board a working schematic of the entire internal FBI serial system, and I am a bit disturbed by one development. Again, I must say, we should thank the FBI for all they have released, we are seeing a lot of information. But what concerns me is that they don't tell you about something which clearly is an assassination record.

Now what seems to be missing to me are entire serials that are not specifically Lee Harvey Oswald as a subject line. So, for example, the Espionage Serial 65, it might be about many names, or the Fair Play For Cuba Committee. In other words, there are files that the FBI maintained on more than one individual which have information on Lee Harvey Oswald. We want those. How do we know about them? Some were released many years ago under FOIA. I showed those series to Mr. Tilley in the Archives, he didn't recognize them. They are not even listed. They must be listed.

One in particular is very interesting. The FBI had tapped Marguerite Oswald's bank account and was aware of bank transfers from her to Oswald who was in Russia. That generated at a lot of material that went into a file that we haven't been told about. Several files, in Dallas a 105 file on Oswald is opened, it is not even listed. But researchers, many in this audience, who are familiar with the very first Fain report on Lee Harvey Oswald will recognize the 105 serial right there. We want the rest of that file, obviously.

At headquarters, open up the 100 serial, Internal Security is what 100 is for; 105 is for counter-intelligence. My point isn't to teach you or lecture you in any way, but just to suggest that there are these serials at both Bureau headquarters and several of the FBI field offices, New York and Dallas in particular, that have information on Lee Harvey Oswald, significant information on Lee Harvey Oswald that was in their possession, and we want them at least listed so that you can determine its suitability under the law.

Finally, on a positive note, if I could end on a very positive note, the Army I characterized last time, as you recall, as having done almost nothing. Of course, there is a lot of controversy about the Army, and we have heard over the years about what they may or may not have done in Dallas in terms of the 112 INCT and various other issues. I can say that -- and, again, we have this problem of other agencies releasing things. If the CIA and the FBI are going to be releasing Army agents' names and agent networks and informant numbers because they feel that this Army information is suitable to release under this act, the Army might want to reconsider its position, too, and I know that they are.

I provided them with, what, 30-35 documents that have their material in it, and I think that Dr. Joyce has already been contacted by them. At least we know they are looking, and I hope that we get a broader conception within Army and hopefully DOD on some of these issues.

Now I hope I haven't exceeded my time, and I will answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Newman.

Questions from the Board?

DR. NELSON: I have one.


DR. NELSON: I would like to clarify something to you. You mentioned several times that you had mentioned to us, that was at a meeting and not a hearing, and I think we ought to establish that.

MR. NEWMAN: No, it was a meeting.

DR. NELSON: It was at our meeting, and you had raised it in the comments, but I just wanted to be sure that everyone knows this is the first hearing that we have had.

What you seem to be indicating then, to go back to some of the things we were talking about earlier, is that, if you go to find all the pieces, you will, in fact, find the broader picture, and that you do start with the pieces, with research-driven, document here, document there. This partially declassified document isn't going to help much, I suppose, but the point is that we were talking about how we were going to go about it in terms of looking at the broad and looking at the narrow. So that would you agree then that by looking at each individual piece, researchers will ultimately have the broad history that Mr. Zaid commented on?

MR. NEWMAN: I would hope that we can impact on this process by doing bottom-up analysis, and identifying things that we know are there or that are related to things that must be there. I think that we can contribute in an important way to the work of the Board.

DR. NELSON: So this would then help what we were discussing earlier in terms of limiting it and avoiding trivialization, and that sort of thing?

MR. NEWMAN: I think so, as more concrete. But at the same time, I think you are going to have to come top down. I would urge you set standards because we have some examples here already that I am bringing to you this morning, the NSA material and the FBI reports, the CIA releasing Army material, obviously according to different standards. The NSA is not interpreting what it needs to release the same way as other agencies that have NSA material. The same thing can be said for the Army. So there is some need for a conceptual top-down set of standards.

I don't know which one of you will sort of work -- probably Dr. Joyce -- with each agency to find out the unique types of records that we may be talking about. There may be substantial differences here by agency of what we are talking about. It may have more to do with their function.

For example, if the FBI -- well, we do know that they were maintaining files and contact with Oswald. Therefore, I think we are going to want to see anything about that, anything about Agent Hosty, Agent Fain and, in fact, one of those missing files I told you about in Dallas concerns the activities of Special Agent Fain.

You may find, in the case of the United States Army, we are not talking about those types of records. They are different types of records. That we are talking foreign policy issues, anti-Cuban operations.

So you mean the general set of guidelines to give to the entire government, but you may need specific guidelines to give to specific agencies as well, and that is different, that is top down, as opposed to researchers sort of bringing things to you that are concrete. But the broad concepts, I think, are necessary to have everyone aiming at the same firing stakes from the beginning, and we do have that problem already.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Anything further?



DR. GRAFF: I would like to ask Professor Newman a question which will shortly trouble the Board, and should trouble everybody in the research community. I think you would grant that not everything can be opened up for a variety of reasons. Some of you can guess at them, some of you will be right on the mark in those guesses. We may not always be able to say why some records are held back. I could conceive of that. This is all theoretical. I have nothing particular in mind.

How many documents do you think we could put on the withheld list and still retain credibility as a Board?

MR. NEWMAN: That is a --

DR. GRAFF: That is a terrible question because you will say, the smoking gun is in the stuff you are holding back, right?

MR. NEWMAN: You are talking about a perception here, and the only thing I could offer you on that, and we have talked -- I know I have talked about it and I have heard many researchers talk about how will you do this? I mean, you have so much time to look at all these documents, but I think the way you begin is going to affect the way we perceive. There is going to be -- no one is going to get everything they want out of this Board or out of this government, but I think it is terribly important to start the right way, as you are, by plugging into the research, being open, being inclusive, that is a very good sign. In defining these terms broadly to begin with, maybe narrowing them later, those types of thing, I think, go a long way in countering the sort of negative perceptions I think you are alluding to.

DR. GRAFF: Thank you.

MR. NEWMAN: Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Professor Newman.

The Board will take a five-minute recess.


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