Release the JFK records, now!

ASSOCIATED PRESS Thousands visit the Capitol in 1963 to mourn Kennedy.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Thousands visit the Capitol in 1963 to mourn Kennedy.
Posted: November 19, 2013

MY 9/11 WAS 11/22.

I remember where I was - each time in a newspaper office.

For Nov. 22, 1963, I was the boss of four weekly newspapers in Brooklyn. I ordered my reporters to hit the streets while I pulled together everything we had on every visit John F. Kennedy made to Brooklyn, where he was idolized.

For Sept. 11, 2001, I was a gossip columnist here, sidelined by the tragedy. I watched it unfold on TV, with horror and anger, just like you. Some of you felt fear, but I felt fury and the dreadful realization that our oceans no longer protected us. On 11/22, I felt a bottomless sadness and the sickening realization that our decency no longer protected us.

Sept. 11 and Nov. 22 didn't get an unforgettable epithet, such as my parents' Day of Infamy, Dec. 7, 1941.

America changed after Dec. 7 and Sept. 11. Those galvanized us for war. We won the first in four years; we are more than a decade into the second. The first was fought without remorse, the second hamstrung by rules of engagement.

11/22 changed us, too, but differently. The assassination shattered our national psyche. I could not foresee that the assassination would begin the slide of our self-assurance as the greatest nation. With brief interludes, we have been in decline ever since. We are now content to lead from behind. If America were a stock, analysts would hang a "sell" tag on it.

Tragedy struck 50 years ago this Friday, and when I write "50 years," it seems like 50 centuries, but it feels like 50 weeks.

In the days after 11/22, I sat my infant son in my lap as we watched black-and-white images beamed from Dallas, and later from D.C., as America displayed her grief. More for me than him, I tried to explain what had happened, but he was too young to understand my words, and I barely understood what happened myself. JFK. Lee Harvey Oswald. J.D. Tippit. Jack Ruby.

Then came the accusations and the questions, and the Warren Commission with the answers, but . . . The answers were insufficient and, to this day, some material is suppressed.

How much?

Depends on whom you ask.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration says it is a "misconception" that the assassination records are "in some way sealed." It says, "The records are largely open and available to the research community."

"Largely " open. That's like being "almost" a virgin.

Although about 5 million records are open, the Associated Press reports that "thousands of pages of investigative documents" are unavailable, some of which might shed light on nagging mysteries, such as 300 pages devoted to CIA caseworker George Joannides.

The Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 requires all records to be released by 2017, but a loophole allows agencies to petition to withhold records if they might compromise "military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement" or foreign relations.

What could possibly be compromised a half-century after the act? The secrecy serves to fire conspiracy theorists with their fantasies about regime change. Gallup reports 61 percent of Americans don't believe Oswald acted alone.

The best-informed people I've read doubt there's a smoking gun hidden there. I don't expect evidence that those who have been chum for conspiracy theorists - Fidel Castro, the Cosa Nostra, the CIA, the generals, Lyndon Johnson - will be found with bloody hands.

I could be wrong. There could be something really ugly under that rock. Why make Americans wait until 2017?

The whole truth, no matter how bitter, is an appropriate way to mark the horrible anniversary.

Release the JFK records now.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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