Sunshine Week logo 2017

 "JFK at 100: State of the Records"

News Conference and Forum

Speakers

1 p.m., Thursday, March 16, 2017
National Press Club, Zenger Room, Washington, DC

To mark the 100th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's birth this spring, leaders in the JFK research community are convening at the National Press Dr. Cyril WechtClub during "Sunshine Week" March 16.

The purpose is to examine the past and current importance of the National Archives' scheduled release by next October of the final batch of declassified documents further illuminating President Kennedy's 1963 assassination. Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) has organized the news conference and forum in the spirit of Sunshine Week, celebrated by journalists nationally this week.

1 p.m. Andrew Kreig, CAPA board member and journalist, Welcome & Introduction of Dr. Cyril H. Wecht,

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht (shown above left), CAPA chairman, medical professor, world-renowned forensic pathologist, and author or co-author of more than 50 books, and former Allegheny County coroner for 20 years, Introduction of keynote speaker.

1:05 p.m. Keynote With Q&A

The Hon. John R. Tunheim, Chief U.S. District Judge for Minnesota and former chair of the congressionally-created Assassination Records Review Board John Tunheim, Chief U.S. District Judge for Minnesota(ARRB) (Shown at left)

1:40 p.m. Research News: Expected Findings From New Documents, Q&A on Current Implications

  • Jefferson Morley, FOIA litigation expert on JFK issues, JFKFacts.org editor, author ("Our Man in Mexico," and others), AlterNet Washington correspondent and former Washington Post reporter
  • James H. Lesar, J.D., FOIA litigation expert and president, Assassination Archives & Research Center
  • John M. Newman, Ph.D., author ("Countdown To Darkness," "JFK and Vietnam," and "Oswald and the CIA"), former Army intelligence officer and assistant to the National Security Agency director, and history professor at James Madison University and formerly at the University of Maryland

2:25 p.m. Break  

2:30 p.m. The Cold Facts From Forensic Evidence

  • Cyril H. Wecht, J.D., M.D., forensic pathologist, medical school professor, leader or former leader multiple medical and scientific professional societies, Allegheny County coroner for 20 years
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The former government officials and other experts below are among those who have called for full release by the National Archives of still-classified records regarding the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Sunshine Week logo 2017The National Archives' release of an estimated 3,600 still-classified documents scheduled for Oct. 26, 2017 is anticipated as the final step of a process that Congress unanimously enacted by the JFK Records Act of 1992, and implemented by the Assassinations Record Review Board (ARRB), a five-person commission chaired by John Tunheim. On Sept. 30, 1998, it made its final report, passed unanimously and with recommendations excerpted below.

Assassinations Record Review Board (ARRB) Recommendations (1998) (Excerpted):

The Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board provides not only an opportunity to detail the extraordinary breadth and depth of the John Tunheim, Chief U.S. District Judge for MinnesotaBoard's work to identify and release the records of the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy, but also to reflect on the Board's shared experience in carrying out this mission and the meaning of its efforts for the much larger challenge of secrecy and accountability in the federal government.

The Review Board was created out of the broad public frustration that the federal government was hiding important information about the Kennedy assassination by placing its records beyond the reach of its citizens. Broad disagreement with the Warren Commission findings, explosive claims in the popular movie JFK, and continued deterioration of public confidence in government led to consensus that it was time to open the files.

—    The Hon. John R. Tunheim, ARRB chairman (currently Chief U.S. District Judge, Minnesota) and the other ARRB members: Henry F. Graff, Kermit L. Hall, William L. Joyce, and Anna K. Nelson. Details

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A new book by Roger Stone and a lecture by his fellow Trump advisor Newt Gingrich this week provide revealing insights about the president and his recent actions.

Stone's book, The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated A Revolution, complements Gingrich's lecture this week at the Heritage Foundation in sharing information useful to Trump's friends and foes alike at this pivotal early stage of his presidency.

Jim DeMint with Newt Gingrich at Heritage Foundation Jan. 30, 2017 JIP photoThe book and lecture deliver for the most part highly positive portrayals of Trump.

"I have zero doubt that the man in charge of the Trump presidency is Trump," Gingrich said, for example. "And that will not change." The lecture series was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, whose President Jim DeMint is shown in our Justice Integrity Project photo at the lectern Jan. 30 introducing Gingrich, who is standing at right awaiting his speaking turn.

These portrayals of Trump help provide valuable insight into his remarkable victory and his current controversies. That story cannot be understood in the traditional Republican vs. Democrat, right vs. left framework. Those simplistic divisions minimize the vast financial, cultural, religious, and other personal motivations in play for Trump, his backers, and their critics. 

Regular readers here know that we see Washington as a house of mirrors where well-financed puppet masters use an array of controlled officials, institutions and propaganda to achieve their goals with relatively superficial public scrutiny. The power brokers operate from such playbooks as Machiavelli's The Prince, a pamphlet first circulated in the early 1500s that showed rulers and their advisors how to gain power via ruthless methods, not piety.  

In such environments and with the stakes so high now, all information is valuable from insiders, even if much of it is advocacy and some is fragmentary.   

Roger Stone Making of the PresidentIn the preface of Stone's book, he describes how he met Trump in 1979 via Trump's powerful attorney Roy Cohn, the young real estate mogul's mentor and friend.

Most people don't know anything about these relationships.

Even fewer would know Stone's role as a fund raiser for the 1980 presidential campaign of California Gov. Ronald Reagan — or the precise identities of Cohn's oft-notorious clientele. Cohn's clients included Genovese leader Tony Salerno, the underboss of one of New York's major Mafia families and a top figure in the region's concrete supply business.

As Stone recounts: Cohn finished a meeting with Salerno and then heard Stone's fund-raising pitch on behalf of Reagan. Cohn then arranged an introductory meeting with his client Trump to help the Reagan campaign.

Stone puts a positive glow on the anecdote and proceeds to describe his close appreciation for Trump's talents.

Such admiration prompted Stone to encourage Trump to run for president beginning in the late 1980s. Stone was an advisor early in Trump's 2016 campaign but left in mid-2015 to publish hard-hitting books attacking first the Clintons and then the Bush family. His books combined in rare fashion reporting, scholarship, and partisan insider opinion, as reflected in their two titles: The Clintons' War on Women and Jeb! and the Bush Crime Family.

What's happening in the nation's capital across the board is too important and complex for normal commentary. Today's column summarizes key points of the Stone and Gringrich commentaries. These are amplified below by an extensive appendix of links to the Stone book, Gingrich lectures about Trump, and recent major news developments.

(I explored these themes during an hour-long interview Feb. 1 on The Phil Mikan Show in Connecticut, which broadcasts over WLIS-AM and WMRD-AM.)

Trump's methods and goals have created global headlines since his inauguration Jan. 20. To begin this overview, we start with the Gingrich lecture at the Heritage Foundation headquarters overlooking the U.S. Senate buildings in the nation's capital.

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Researchers into the causes of President Kennedy's assassination and the 9/11 attacks hold an advantage over most others in deciphering news about national security intrigues that rely on dubious evidence.

Students of those crimes have by now detected so much media self-censorship or exaggeration in reports about those attacks that it’s relatively easy for them to discern similar patterns in treatments of other high-stakes issues.

Democratic and Republican Campaigns DecodedOne is the current alarm by U.S. officials and mass media over “fake news,” particularly as applied to propaganda involving 2016 election results.

Aside from Donald Trump and his supporters applying the term "fake news" to political reporting and commentary they don't like, the term is being applied primarily to independent websites — some of which are indeed outright frauds. National Public Radio's Laura Sydell reported one example last fall in We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned. Some of these sites performing political disinformation masquerade as satire sites.

But other independent outlets being smeared as "fake" should be regarded as alternative media. Of varying credibility, they sometimes stumble, sometimes serve up propaganda — and sometimes play a bold, vital role challenging conventional wisdom regarding such historically important events as the 9/11 attacks and assassination of President Kennedy.

Hillary Clinton Madam President Newsweek coverWe focus below on several recent stories that expose credibility problems with Newsweek, its former owner the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS News, and the New York Times. These examples — including a remarkable screw-up by Newsweek in distributing copies of a magazine showing Hillary Clinton as our elected "Madam President" — help illustrate the credibility gap that mainstream outlets are inflicting on themselves, whether they admit it or not in their crusades against alternative outlets.

The analysis below comes in the midst of the mainstream media's harsh, sudden, and seemingly relentless campaign currently against "fake news." We provide today's column as balance because many of the attacks resemble such previous and now-discredited campaigns as the CIA-driven Operation Mockingbird, in which the nation's 40 major news organizations combined to suppress inconvenient news during the 1950s and 1960s. The CIA's Frank Wisner and Washington Post publisher Philip Graham jointly operated the program, which was exposed in the 1979 book Katharine the Great by Deborah Davis.

The current allegations against Russia, including of hacking U.S. election-related sites and blackmailing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, are beyond the scope of today's column. This editor attended a hard-hitting lecture on that topic Jan. 17 by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who delivered one of her last major speeches at the Atlantic Council's headquarters overlooking the Russian Ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C.

Power's claims that a conspiracy exists to promote fake news and hacking is a topic for another day, particularly because the complexities are intertwined with the role of U.S. government propaganda and disinformation. That inevitably points to important but complex and secretive machinations, including those suggested by her husband Cass Sunstein, a top Obama White House regulator in the Office of Management and Budget during the first term. (Sunstein, center, is shown with Power in a White House photo during her 2013 swearing in officiated by Vice President Joe Biden.)

Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein White House PhotoSunstein suggested as a Harvard Law professor in 2008 and then in his 2014 book Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas that the government hire professors and journalists as secret government operatives. Those operatives, he said, could use such professional disguise to disrupt research into such "dangerous ideas" as research that questions the government's account of 9/11 attacks. That is itself a dangerous idea, as Glenn Greenwald has noted in Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal.

Also a topic for another day is background on the latest developments in studies related to President Kennedy's assassination and 9/11 research. We have published an ongoing Readers Guide To JFK Assassination, and separately reported a comprehensive overview of 9/11 research in Experts Reject Planes, Fire As Cause For 9/11 WTC Collapses. The latter covered the historic Justice in Focus conference organized by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth in New York City on the occasion of the 15th anniversary last September of the attacks.

Today's analysis focuses instead on exploring shocking shortcomings in basic research recently by several of our most prestigious news outlets coupled with a disturbing reluctance on their part to concede the scope of their credibility problems.

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U.S. House members should pledge to impeach the incoming President Trump if he starts any new wars in office without first complying with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of a congressional declaration of war, according a non-partisan civic group that announced its plan last week.

Charles W. "Chas" FreemanCommittee for the Republic leaders identified Virginia, Ohio and Iowa as the first three states where organizers plan to rally public opinion behind a pledge by their representatives to impeach if the Executive Branch launches new "wars," which would be narrowly defined to include covert advisors and major arms supply creating new conflicts defined as war.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles “Chas” Freeman, Jr. announced the grassroots campaign on Jan. 5 at the Metropolitan Club, located about a block from the White House. “Thirteen years ago George W. Bush invaded Iraq without a congressional declaration of war,” he said.

“Our nation is now mired in nine ongoing presidential wars,” continued Freeman, chairman and a co-founder of the committee in 2003. “They have cost nearly ten trillion dollars; starved our infrastructure; crippled our liberties; and multiplied and united our enemies.

Donald Trump button open mouth“They have also enabled the growth of apparently limitless presidential power to play prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill any American the President decrees is an imminent national security danger based on secret, unsubstantiated evidence,” said Freeman (shown in a file photo).

Speakers at the campaign launch stressed that their initiative was not an attempt to thwart Trump but was intended instead to stop a long term erosion of Constitutional checks and balances on Executive Branch power. 

Freeman, whose three decades of defense and diplomacy posts included high-level positions under both Republicans and Democrats, was the first of committee board members voicing strong support. Most provided compelling personal biographical reasons about why they had reached such a momentous decision as to push for a pledge.

Other speakers included constitutional law expert, attorney and former Reagan administration FCC counsel Bruce Fein; Washington, D.C., Tea Party Founder Tom Whitmore; lawyer and former Reagan Administration Defense Department Assistant Secretary for Manpower Delbert Spurlock; and investment adviser John Henry.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) also spoke passionately about a need for constituents to hold House members accountable and to help impose limits on Executive Power, including to declare war. But Massie said he would have to study the impeachment pledge for agreeing to it. Massie said U.S. House members should pledge to impeach the incoming President Trump if he starts any new wars without following the U.S. Constitution’s requirement to seek a congressional declaration of war.

Since 2003, the Committee for the Republic has held 130 conferences (termed "salons") according to the group, whose board of directors is shown below.

Committee for the Republic Board

“The time for talk alone has expired,” its announcement said. “Unconstitutional wars continue to feed dysfunction in government and to corrode liberty in the United States. They turn children into orphans, wives into widows, husbands into widowers, and families into refugees, while provoking terrorist blowback.

The Committee's Board of Directors believes that patriotism demands making the Constitution in general and the warfare state in particular the battleground of national politics. It proposes to devote the Committee's January 5 salon to elaborating a proposal to do this and to encourage past and future participants in Committee activities to attend this salon and to contribute as best you can to realizing the resulting proposal.

It is past time to restore a decent respect for the Constitution and the opinions of humankind to the conduct of US foreign relations.

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A scandal-tainted GOP federal judge ruled in December to strip a casino gambler of $10 million in winnings just as Republicans prepare to pack the courts in 2017 after blocking Obama appointments to the lifetime posts.
 
The two developments underscore the mainstream media's reluctance to report in depth on judges and nominees except in the rarest of scandals.

Noel HillmanThe Washington Post, for example, omitted any mention of New Jersey federal judge Noel Hillman's past in reporting about him on Dec. 20 in a story headlined Famed poker pro with ‘remarkable’ $9.6 million scheme has to pay it back, judge rules. That omission typifies the timid, superficial coverage that traditional newspapers and broadcasters accord to judges and nominees.

Hillman, shown in an official photo, began his career in 1986 as law clerk for two years to casino magnate Donald Trump's sister. Hillman later helped the George W. Bush administration orchestrate the Justice Department's nationwide political prosecutions to destroy opponents, which resulted in several of the most notorious legal disgraces in recent U.S. history, including the federal corruption prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

Another front-page Washington Post story earlier this week, Trump in position to reshape judiciary with more than 100 vacancies, shows why judicial oversight should loom as major issue after the Trump administration takes office next month.

But that can never occur so long as media outlets foster the illusion that judges are inherently wise, fair and needing little scrutiny. Judges themselves seek to portray this image (as implied by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' year-end report on the federal judiciary, released on Dec. 31).

Today we recap Hillman's innovative (if not activist) casino ruling, then explore the disturbing way he worked his way through the legal system. He reached a position where, beginning in 2001, he helped supervise a series of seemingly partisan Justice Department prosecutions that primarily targeted Democrats, including Siegelman.

The former governor Siegelman, for many years of one his state's most popular politicians, is still being held in the Louisiana federal prison at Oakdale for 1999 conduct that many legal experts say did not constitute a crime, and certainly not one meriting such long, oppressive investigation and punishment.

During Hillman's five-year tenure as a senior official in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the department waged an all-out crusade against Siegelman beginning in 2001. It joined forces with Alabama's GOP Attorney General William Pryor in a joint federal-state probe that state Republicans had begun at the start of Siegelman's term in 1999.

The special investigation was located at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base for unexplained reasons suggesting the police state tactics in the offing. Playing a lead role was an Air Force colonel who held a joint appointment to the Justice Department and the Air Force Reserves. The Bush administration spared no expense to intimidate witnesses, according to sworn statements and other evidence. For example, they interrogated the key witness Nick Bailey up to 70 times without required disclosure to the defense, and threatened Bailey, a former aide to Siegelman, with 10 years in prison and the likelihood of repeated rape there if he did not provide the required testimony against his former boss.

Siegelman's first trial judge, Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of Birmingham indicated at trial that he believed charges were weak (later describing them as the "most unfounded' he had seen in nearly three decades on the federal bench). Authorities shopped for a new judge in a second trial and obtained the ethically compromised trial judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of the middle district in Montgomery. Fuller thereupon provided many pro-prosecution rulings on dubious grounds, as documented below.

Alabama's two U.S. Senators, Jeff Sessions (now President-elect Trump's nominee for Attorney General) and Richard Shelby, were part of the Alabama GOP power structure that had sponsored the key judicial and prosecutorial nominees aside from Clemon.

Don Siegelman with Charles Cloud Dec. 11, 2015 at Oakdale, LAUpdate: Washington Post's Sari Horwtiz reported Jan. 3 in More than 1,100 law school professors oppose Sessions’s nomination as attorney general. “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality,” states the letter signed by professors from 170 law schools.

Siegelman is shown at right with a fellow prisoner in a photo in late 2015 after emerging from 57 days in "The Hole" of solitary confinement. His offense? No one in authority will say on the record.

But the treatment reputedly was because Siegelman had echoed legal experts nationally who say that his 1999 conduct — reappointing to a state board businessman Richard Scrushy, a donor to an Alabama foundation Siegelman supported — was not a crime. Authorities have meted out extraordinary reprisal to whistleblowers and others speaking up for Siegelman, including his co-defendant Scrushy.

Tamarah GrimesScrushy said he was offered a plea deal with no prison time if he would incriminate Siegelman but he refused to lie, and was thereupon prosecuted to the hilt for his donation to the non-profit. Fuller gave him the same seven-year prison term as Siegelman, and ordered them hauled away in chains to begin serving time immediately, without the normal stay and appeal bond in white-collar cases.

We estimate the government spent at least $15 million on the case, including $500,000 for one paralegal alone to work under contract (outside standard DOJ channels) at the military base filing evidence, as Tamarah Grimes, shown in a photo and the DOJ's top career paralegal on the case reported. The Obama administration's reaction was to fire her, as we reported in a magazine for paralegals with an exclusive interview headlined "From Justice Dream Job to Nightmare…Why This Whistleblower Was Dissed & Dismissed.

Reflecting on all this last spring, the civil rights attorney, law professor and columnist Scott Horton wrote that some key Justice Department officials believe its reputation would be too deeply hurt if the true facts of the prosecution were ever revealed, according to Horton's Washington Spectator column, The Case for a Presidential Pardon for Don Siegelman.

This helps explain the bipartisan nature of the scandal whereby the Obama administration, sometimes using career personnel, repeatedly helped thwart redress of oppressive Bush political prosecutions, some of which were against Republicans like Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens who were targeted for special reasons, as we have often reported.

Hiding the Evidence?

But cover-up is wrong, as the Justice Department (of all places) should know.

Scott HortonHorton provided key parts of that background in a 2007 Harper's Magazine online column, Noel Hillman and the Siegelman Case. Yet Siegelman must still seek via a recent lawsuit the basic records about his case that should have been disclosed before his 2006 trial. His lawsuit seeking documentation from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility was filed last year, reported under the headline Son of jailed former governor files lawsuit to obtain government information.

Horton, shown in a file photo, reported that Hillman's 2007 nomination for advancement from the district court to the federal appellate court had been blocked because revelations in 2007 demonstrated Hillman's disgraceful conduct as head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section when it targeted public officials like Siegelman on "corruption" charges.

The result not only kept imprisoned targets like Siegelman, so popular in Alabama that he otherwise could have been a potential presidential candidate, but financially ruined their families and those of co-defendants, and rendered their constituents without effective leadership and the national party deprived of several prospective national leaders similarly prosecuted around the nation during the presidency of George W. Bush.

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