Dumb quote of the day: tell me all the things I wanna hear edition

>> Monday, June 04, 2012

Next year will be a half-century since the death of JFK. And the Obama Administration thinks we need to keep secret the records on the matter … a little longer yet.

Believe it or not, more than 50,000 pages of JFK assassination–related documents are being withheld in full. And an untold number of documents have been partially withheld or released with everything interesting blacked out. But why?

Since the government and the big media keep telling us there was no conspiracy and that it was all Lee Harvey Oswald acting on his own, why continue to keep the wraps on?

We don’t have an answer, but in understanding this and any number of other mysteries, we can begin looking for patterns in the way the administration handles information policy.
- Russ Baker, "What gets declassified?"
Salon, May 31st, 2012.


Here's something I don't understand. Something I may never understand: why do all those people who complain about how there are x-however-many still-classified documents about the JFK assassination seem to believe that it's because the government is hiding something about a conspiracy? Because, you know, just for the sake of an argument let's say there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy: they've had fifty years to destroy those documents, do you really think they'd be "withholding" them? And if they hadn't destroyed them already, do you really think they'd be counting them in the list of 50,000-or-however-many documents "waiting" to be declassified.

People like Russ Baker are apparently waiting for the government to release documents that the government would have no earthly reason whatsoever to acknowledge the existence of, assuming the documents existed at all.

Now, understand, I'm not saying all those documents need to be classified. Odds are good that most of them--maybe even all of them--don't need to be classified. And some of those documents are probably interesting and insightful, though odds are quite a lot of them aren't and are only classified due to bureaucratic inertia and bad habits. I will not be the least bit surprised should the government suddenly declassify some FBI field operative's lunch receipts that remained classified for nearly fifty years just because.

And let me say, too, that I've long held the hypothesis or theory that there was a kind of governmental cover-up in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination: not of culpability or knowledge, but of incompetence and/or perceived inadequacy. E.g. the FBI paid Lee Harvey Oswald several inconclusive visits--being a former Marine who defected to then returned from the Soviet Union and then engaged in communist provocations in New Orleans (at least one of which led to Oswald's arrest for disturbing the peace in August, 1963, Oswald was a person of interest--and Oswald reacted by writing a nasty and vaguely threatening letter to Agent James Hosty which was filed-and-forgotten until it was found immediately after the assassination; Hosty's superior, Gordon Shanklin, allegedly told Hosty, "If people learn that Oswald gave you guff a week before the assassination, they'll say you should have known he'd kill the president. If Hoover finds out about this, he's going to lose it." Shanklin allegedly had Hosty write a two-page memo to accompany the note, which was secreted in a separate, confidential file, then possibly destroyed. (Hosty's account is disputed by others.) (Vince Bugliosi, Reclaiming History: The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy, pp. 158-159.) A potentially dangerous political agitator who sends threatening mail to Federal offices (one agent who claimed to have seen Oswald's letter to Hosty said Oswald threatened to blow up the FBI building if Hosty didn't stop harassing his wife--Hosty said this was an exaggeration and the letter contained no such threat) might well be the kind of person the FBI might be expected to keep an eye on, especially in 1963, but the CIA and State Department legally would have no interest in him--except that one can understand both agencies feeling that someone might accuse them of dropping the ball, as well, notwithstanding the whole technicality of them not having a ball in the game at all; Oswald, again, was a man who'd left the Marine Corps under dubious circumstances (after performing erratically, he lied about needing a family deferment to take care of his mother) and defected to the Soviet Union, returning only a few years later, claiming he'd never revoked his American citizenship (in fact, he'd attempted to do so, but gave such a pathetic performance, the American embassy in Moscow didn't take him seriously; indeed, he was on the verge of being kicked out of the country by the Russians when a suicide attempt in his hotel room convinced the Soviets to issue him a temporary visa, perhaps because rejecting a would-be defector who went and killed himself over it would have been bad optics).

I have to observe that there's an irony in all of the above, which is that if Oswald hadn't gone and killed the President, and had in fact been constantly bothered by the FBI (and possibly watched, illegally, by the CIA), he would have had valid civil liberties complaints and many of those on the left who now wonder what secret Oswald files the FBI (or CIA) kept would be just as happily railing against the evils of the surveillance state (and probably with more legitimacy to their beefs). I.e. the government is perhaps damned if it does and damned if it doesn't with regard to possible documents, since there's some probability, I think, that still-classified documents won't show a conspiracy to kill the President, but rather will show that Federal agencies violated Lee Harvey Oswald's civil liberties and still failed to get anything useful to show for doing so; and if the documents don't show that, there's a fair probability they can be read to show Federal agencies should have violated Lee Harvey Oswald's civil liberties and at least John Kennedy would have lived to a painful and steroids-filled old age.

Yeah, I'd be reluctant to release some of that stuff even after fifty years, too.

I believe, if you can't tell, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and he shot John Kennedy. Notwithstanding the fact that the portfolio of evidence against Oswald indeed has the same kinds of holes and ambiguities you see in any criminal investigation, the bulk and weight of the evidence satisfies me beyond a reasonable doubt that Oswald was the guy. He had the means and opportunity, he owned the murder weapon, he killed a cop trying to get away and attempted to kill another one when he was caught, he lived a desultory and largely unsuccessful life in which he constantly tried and (at least until November 22nd, 1963) failed to be as important a historical figure as he thought he was. Friends, associates and family members describe a man of narcissistic self-regard who cast himself as one of the greats when he was inevitably a fuck-up and a nobody. As for motive, motive is overrated, but I think it's as simple as saying that John Kennedy was Oswald's Everest: he was there. Oswald almost certainly tried to murder Edwin Walker, too, and missed, and he might have shot Richard Nixon if his wife hadn't locked him in the bathroom (Buglioisi, 697-99); if he hadn't managed to hit JFK two-for-three, he probably would have trained that mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano on someone else. It was just a matter of time.

But supposing I'm wrong. Supposing it was the CIA, or the Mafia, or the Aliens, or the Boy Sprouts using Mind-Control Lasers at the behest of Discordians with Girlie Magazines--whatever, I know this much: that there's no smoking gun in the archives, waiting to be released. Okay, okay, maybe I shouldn't be so absolutely certain, but if I were to stake my life on one or the other, there isn't a smoking gun. And I know this because if there were a smoking gun, it's either been disposed of already or it's going to sit at the bottom of whatever filing cabinet it's in and nobody's ever going to lay eyes on it or remove the inches of dust and dead silverfish its been collecting for half-a-century and half-a-century more, amen. You know, it's perfectly possible the man who knew he filed it there has forgotten about it and died. If it exists: it's a fanciful thing and fun to think about, but then so is Bigfoot.




3 comments:

Warner Monday, June 4, 2012 at 8:48:00 AM EDT  

You mean that there isn't a sealed envelope at the FBI explaining that the man on the grassy knoll was trained by bin-Laden?

timb111 Monday, June 4, 2012 at 9:32:00 AM EDT  

This is the least paranoid article on Oswald that I've read in a long time.

I remember walking home from my friends and hearing the sound of radios permeating the air. I thought the noise was coming from the overhead cables. When I turned on our brand new TV it showed all this commotion about some guy getting shot. I had no idea who he was or why everyone was so concerned about someone in another country, I just knew I couldn't watch Cowboy Bob's Kid's Roundup.

Also, I'm pretty sure I saw a young bin-Laden running from the grassy knoll in one of the shots. This has been suppressed as part of a conspiracy by the Grey Aliens.

Nick from the O.C.,  Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 1:16:00 PM EDT  

Didn't West Wing run an ep on a similar topic? The memory is hazy but I recall Sam campaigning for some guy to have his name cleared post-homously and the National Security Advisor showing him classified info that proved the guy was guilty.

Damn, I miss that show.

Anyway, Eric, to the question as to why such info might be kept classified 5 decades after the fact: Sources and Methods.

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