JFK ACT OVERSIGHT HEARINGS – Deep Background – By William Kelly
“The (ARR) Board and its staff….hope that release of these records will shed new evidentiary light on the assassination of President Kennedy, enrich the historical understanding of that tragic moment in American history, and help restore public confidence in the government’s handling of the assassination and its aftermath.”
– September 30, 1998 ARRB Final Report
The last Congressional hearing on the JFK Act was held on June 4, 1997, a one day session to officially ratify a one year extension to the deadline set to dissolve the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) and allow them time to complete their work.
That hearing included a few, carefully selected witnesses, including Review Board member Sarah Nelson, Warren Commission appologist Max Holland and Bruce Hitchcock, an Indiana high school teacher whose students were inspired to work on the declassification of the JFK assassination records. [Note #1 JFK Act Extension Hearing]
Rep. Henry Waxman (D. Calf.), now Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, was one of the Congressmen who co-sponsored the bill (H.R. 1553) with then Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R. Ind.) to extend the JFK Act by one year. One stipulation to the extention required that the Review Board submit monthly reports to the Committee in order to ensure that the law was being carried out. [Note #2 ARRB Reports to Oversight Committee]
While the ARRB did release an astonishing 4 million pages of documents releated to the assassination, which they said would take researchers ten years to read, they also withheld many important and specifically requested records, most for reasons of national security. The last officially with held record related to the assassination of President Kennedy is slated to be released in full by 2017, ten years earlier than if there were no special law to accelerate the process.
It has now been over a ten years, a full decade, since the section of the JFK Act related to the work of the ARRB terminated the board’s existence. The remaining aspects of the JFK Act remain in force however. The JFK Act will remain a living law until the last record is released and the Archivist of the United States declares that the last JFK assassination record has been released to the public. [Note #3 – JFK Act Remains In Effect]
That declaration may be ten years or so away, but it has already been more than a decade since the JFK Act was enacted, and it is now time to have a full and thorough overview of the law with public Oversight Hearings in Congress.
The Constitution holds Congress responsible for oversight of such matters, specifically the House Reform and Oversight Committee (aka the Waxman Committee), [Note #4 Waxman Profile] and its subcommittee on Census, Information Policy and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), (aka the Clay Subcommitee after Subcommittee chairman, William L. Clay (D. Mo.). [Note #5 Clay Profile]
Rep. Clay’s district includes the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis, and he is responsible for calling hearings on issues that come under his subcommitte’s jurisdiction, a responsiblilty he shares with full Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, and the Chairwomen of the House (Ms. Pulosi, D. Calf.). Together they decide whether to hold hearings, when to hold them, on what issues, and how they are to be conducted. Dan Burton (R. Indiana), the former Committe chair, is now on the National Security Subcommittee. [Note #6 Burton Profile]
When the Republicans held a majority, and called the shots, except for the hearing to extend the Act, no hearings were held and they conducted no oversight of the JFK Act at all. That was suppose to change when the Democratics became the majority party and assumed committee chairs. Of all the House committees, the House Reform and Oversight Committee, under Waxman, has been the most active, with quick and sometimes effectual hearings on hot issues, including voting maching fraud, the Walter Reed Hospital scandle, Guantamano abuses and the Valarie Plame affair.
Holding Oversight hearings on the JFK Act is not something they want to do, and it may take more newsworthy events to make the JFK Act an issue Congress realizes the public is interested in. Even though it is a non-partisan (as opposed to bi-partisan) issue that both parties can embrace, and work together on, they may have to be instigated, or embarrssed to hold the mandated oversight hearings on the JFK Act. Fortunately there is no shortage of ammunition because the JFK Act is a fine example of how the government really works and who controls what power.
All you have to do is review the lists of records they acknowledge were destroyed and no longer exist, and then check out the records that are missing though everyone acknowledges once existed, but they just don’t know what happened to them. Then there are the records that are still being officially withheld, legally or otherwise. (See Outsdanding Issue – Records).
After more than ten years of inaction, now is the time for the Clay Subcommittee of the Waxman Committee to conduct public oversight hearings of the JFK Act. Now is the time to properly review the circumstances of the destruction of certain records, what became of the missing records, and why there are still some being wrongfully and possibly illegally withheld.
The goverment administrators responsible for the destruction of records should be identified, subpoened and questioned under oath, and there should be at least an attempt made to locate the missing records or determine what became of them.
The responsible subcommittee should also recommend that Congress approve the ARRB recomendations contained in their final report, and consider a formal extension of the JFK Act to ensure that the NANA and the Committee have enough resources to properly oversee and enforce the law.
When the 9/11 Commission was officially dissolved, they continued to meet together privately, and they organized a non-profit group that continued to promote the recommendations of the Commission, and effetively did so.
The Assassination Records Review Board also made many recommendations before it dissolved, including the formation of a liason group that represented the historian and archivists assocations who recommended the members of the Review Board, and that this ad hoc liason group continue to oversee the enforcement of the remaining statutes of the JFK Act. [Note #7 ARRB Recommendations]
No such ad hoc liason group ever met, and no such independent, non-profit organization has continued to actively try to oversee the continued function of the JFK Act, other than the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) and the Committee for an Open Archives (COA).
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and the National Security Archives (NSA), generally involved in open government legislation, shy away from anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy and political assassination in general. It has been reported that Charles Sanders, Esq. and Mark Zaid, Esq. have written a letter to the Waxman Committee requesting that they hold JFK Act oversight hearings, but a public copy of this letter has not yet been made available.
While full scale investigative hearings are unlikely, they are possible, and getting at least one oversight hearing and consideration for a new extension is certainly doable.
James Lesar, Esq. took the lead when he wrote Waxman that “… my organization, the Assassination Archives and Research Center (‘AARC’) requests that you hold Oversight hearings on the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (‘JFK Records Act’), 44 U.S.C. rj 2107. The fact that it is almost 45 years since President Kennedy’s assassination increases rather than diminishes the need for urgent action.”
“The Justice Department has in recent years reopened a number of seemingly ancient cases, horrific racial slayings of the 1950s and 1960s and in some cases has obtained convictions. It has been conspicuously inactive, however, on the murder of President Kennedy, a crime of enormous importance to the nation. This is so even though much about the case remains in doubt, and though significant evidence has emerged pointing to the possibility that there was a conspiracy.”
“The government’s failure to address the doubts and confront such evidence has had a lasting, profoundly negative impact on our democracy. It is no coincidence that the steep and continuing decline in trust and respect for American leaders and institutions began after the assassination and the Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the President. Questions remain as to whether to cite more common suspicions, not least those expressed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations there was a conspiracy involving organized crime, or a foreign power, or even “the military industrial complex” of which President Dwight Eisenhower warned in his farewell address. Only by being seen to have made every last effort to resolve such suspicions, and by achieving total transparency in terms of public disclosure can we begin to restore confidence in our democratic system and our national institutions.”
Lesar notes that, “Congress implicitly acknowledged this when it passed the JFK Records Act. It recognized that the American people have the right to know their own history, and that to know it they must have access to the facts to the fullest possible record. As a direct result of the Act, a huge volume of previously secret documents were rapidly released. Those disclosures, coupled to ongoing research, produced stunning revelations.” (See List: Northwoods, Joannidies, ….et al. ).
[To read James Lesar’s complete letter to Waxman : http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=1245944348321146643&postID=6046845850431762562 ].
Lesar calls upon Congress to enact new legislation “that brings the date for full disclosure of all JFK assassination records forward to 2009……It is essential that Congress use its muscle to ensure that the JFK Records Act again operates as the lawmakers intended and that government agencies, the CIA included, comply with all its requirements. Congress should also ensure that, notwithstanding the passing of the years, fresh evidence is studied and given a thorough hearing.”
Lesar concldues that, “To fail to take such action, in a way that is absolutely clear and transparent, would be to invite further erosion of the public trust. A democratic nation lost its elected leader, in circumstances never satisfactorily explained, and requires nothing less of its elected representatives.”
Who Are these elected representatives?
Only Committee Chairman can call a hearing, and only does so with the acknowledgement of the Speaker of the House. In this case, the subcommittee chair, Rep. W. L. Clay (D. Mo.) and the full committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D. Calf.) would have to get the okay to hold JFK Act hearings from Rep. Pulosi (D. Calf.), all of whom should be agreeable if it is timed right.
Subcommitee on IP, C, and NA
Jurisdiction includes public information and records laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Census Bureau, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Wm. Lacy Clay, Chairman
Paul E. Kanjorski, Pennsylvania
Carolyn B. Maloney, New York
John A. Yarmuth, Kentucky
Paul W. Hodes, New Hampshire
Michael Turner, Ranking Member, Ohio
Chris Cannon, Utah
Bill Sali, Idaho
If any of these Congressmen are your representative, as a constituent, they will pay more attention to you than to someone from out of their district and doesn’t vote, so you can make a difference by writing them a letter expresing your views and asking them to take an interest in this issue. (See Letters to Waxman).
While we would like to begin a series of public hearings on the JFK Act in particular and open government records in general, hearings that would explore all of the relevant issues and be held routinely and continuously until the JFK Act is complete (circa 2017), it’s highly unlikely that will happen.
It is more than likely that only one hearing will be held over the course of one day, not unlike the hearing held to get the extension of the JFK Act. That was a very successful hearing, briskly taking the testimony of a few key witnesses for the record, and then recommending an extension of the ARRB for an additional year, with Congress giving its unopposed general consent.
If the Clay subcommittee of the Waxman Oversight Committee is going to hold even one hearing on the JFK Act, then it must be presented with not only recommendations, but a request for new legislation, a new law that must be prescribed by those of us who want it, or they will write it themselves, however they want it, or more likely, not at all
Without re-establishing a review a board, this new legislation should be an Extension of the JFK Act, an amendment that could give the original law some enforcement teeth, if not jaws, and try to resolve the outstanding issues outlined by Lesar in his letter, and as elaborated on by others.
[Note #8 Oversight Committee Rules and Procedures for hearings and reports.]
Which brings us back to the original JFK Act extension hearing as an example of what we would like to acomplish, and if we only get one shot, it must be a really good one.
Official Report on the Hearing: http://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/hearings/105h/90483.pdf
Joe Backes was there: http://spot.acorn.net/JFKplace/09/fp.back_issues/17th_Issue/arrb_ext.html
While the June , 1997 JFK Act Extension hearing only addressed the need for continuing the Review Board, many other issues related to the legislation have been raised, and the specific issues related to the content of the records, have yet to be addressed in a public hearing. As Dennis Bartholometw, Esq., has points out, “Section 12 thereby indicates that the receipt of assassintion related documents by the National Archives and the release of such documents to the public shall continue until all assassination documetns are made available to the public.”
As Dennis Bartholomew, Esq, has pointed out, “Section 12 thereby indicates that the receipt of assassination related documents by the National Archives and the release of such documents to the public shall continue until all assassination documents are made available to the public.”
“However, today, years after the Assassination Records Review Board was terminated, there are still a number of documents that have not yet been released to the public, there is evidence that the CIA has assassination related documents that it has not turned over to the National Archives, and there is reason to believe that other assassination related documents still exist that are unknown to both the National Archives and JFK assassination researchers. It is therefore clear that Congress needs to take some simple steps to ensure that the work mandated by the JFK Assassination Records Act is completed.”
As Lesar wrote, “I ask that you do now hold hearings to assess the working of the JFK Records Act. Also that your committee address the need to modify and update it, or enact newlegislation, to resolve the sort of problems I have described….It is essential that Congress use its muscle to ensure that the JFK Records Act again operates as the lawmakers intended and that government agencies, the CIA included, comply with all its requirements. Congress should also ensure that, notwithstanding the passing of the years, fresh evidence is studied and given a thorough hearing. To fail to take such action, in a way that is absolutely clear and transparent, would be to invite further erosion of the public trust.”
In the course of attempting to get Congress to pass a new extension to the JFK Act, it is necessary to make the new law comprehensive, yet feasible, and one they will consider, consider appropriate and pass by general consent and with no opposition. Therefore it must also be realistic.
The JFK CONTINUATION ACT
We recommend that Congress enact a continuation to the JFK Assassination Records Act (JFK Continuation Act) to do the following:
1) recommended by the Board itself, Congress should recognize a liaison board composed of individuals from Assassination Archives and Research Center, Coalition on Political Assassination, Committee for an Open Archives, American Federation of Scientists, National Security Archives, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists and the American Bar Association to oversee continued implementation of the provisions of the JFK Act.
2) As recommended by the Board, Congress should provide necessary funding for the National Archives to maintain the JFK Records collection and complete its release of JFK documents to the public, and add interns, researchers and investigators to the Clay Subcommittee so they can do a responsible job, including the use of subpoena powers to obtain documents and witnesses tesimony.
3) The JFK Continuation Act should give members of the public a private right of action to identify additional assassination related records and to require the entity holding those documents submit them to the National Archives as specified in the JFK Act. Where the public citizen and the entity holding the documents differ on whether the document is assassination related, NARA, under the guidance of the liaison board should make that determination.
4) The National Archives, under the oversight of the liaison board, will continue to release documents to the public as their postponement dates are reached, and will released all remaining documents, unredacted, in the year 2017, as mandated by the JKF Records Act.
5) The JFK Continuation Act will specifically provide notice to the public, through some reasonable means to communication, that all persons or entities outside the government who have assassination related documents or related disclosures are encouraged to submit them to the National Archives, as contemplated in Section 5 (a) (4) of the JFK Records Act. It will be made clear that the JFK Act and the JFK Continuation Act take precedence over all other law or judicial decision, as provided in section 11 of the JFK Act, which would otherwise prohibit such transmission or disclosure. It will also be made clear that the JFK Continuation Act will take precedence over any secrecy oath taken by the private citizen that would otherwise prohibit such transmission or disclosure.
6) The JFK Continuation Act will provide the relevant sub-committee with additional staff, including researchers, investigators and attorneys to continue to search for the relevant, missing and reputedly destroyed records, and liason with Department of Justice to prosecute those responsible for the illegal destruction of historic and evidentiary records related to the assassination.
7) The JFK Continuation Act will maintain in force and properly funded until the JFK Act is deemed satisfied by the release to the public of the last remaining official government record related to the assassination of President John F. Kenned.
8) The JFK Continuation Act will ensure that the outsanding evidence collected by other government agencies and commissions will be properly evalauted for its evidentary value, including the acoustical eviddence, ballistics, DNA and other standard testings, and require the Department of Justice to act in accordance with its mandate.
9) The JFK Continuation Act will ….Other a, b, c….
“The JFK Records Act requires remedial action in other areas”- James Lesar, Esq.
Besides those issues addressed in the above suggested extension/continuation resolution, there are other issues that should be addressed and made a part of the new law, as outlined by James Lesar.
I. OUTSTANDING ISSUES related to legislation and enforcement :
a) The Review Board ordered that many records or portions of records that were initially withheld be disclosed at dates prior to 2008. A good deal of such information, however, is still withheld. The National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”), which has a duty to disclose such materials once the postponement date is reached, does not always do so.
b) While the Review Board was in existence, many records containing third agency information were referred to third agencies for action. Those agencies have in many cases failed to process the referred materials in timely fashion, and NARA – which maintains the JFK Records Act Collection, has failed to follow through by obtaining it.
c) It has become clear in recent years that records pertinent to the study of the JFK assassination are not in the JFK Collection – either because they were overlooked by government agencies and the Review Board or because new areas of inquiry have opened up that were previously not perceived as relevant or significant by agencies or the Review Board.
d)The CIA entered into an agreement with the Review Board to continue processing any and all JFK assassination records after the Review Board ceased to function. It has not honored that agreement. The result – and this applies not only to the CIA but also to other agencies – is that persons requesting assassination records not already a part of the Collection must proceed under the Freedom of lnformation Act (“FOIA”) – which is far more restrictive than the JFK Records Act. It was the inadequacy of the FOIA, indeed, that led Congress to pass the JFK Act in the first place. In a real sense. requesters thus find themselves back to Square One.
JFK ACT ANTHOLOGY I
A Call for Papers to be included in a White Paper Anthology on the JFK Act.
Subject: JFK Act Oversight Hearings
Purpose: Informing House Oversight Committee members of the overall state of the records related to the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992, [44 U.S.C. S 2107 (Supp. V. 1994)].
Topic: If given the opportunity to make a brief presentation, from your experiences and knowledge of certain aspects of the JFK Act, what would you tell the committee members is the most important thing they can do, and how would you propose they go about doing it?
Approach: We hope to compile as much information as possible so when JFK Act Oversight Hearings are finally held, if they are ever held in our lifetime, the witnesses who should be called to testify are called, and the most significant issues related to destroyed, missing and withheld records are brought to the table.
Rational: Since the long overdue hearings have yet to be held and may never be held, it is clear public hearings are called soon after an issue makes headlines, so it might take another big news story to inspire the Committee to hold the hearings. Otherwise, a well crafted and simply edited White Paper Anthology on the subject could assist in persuading them. And once they are held, the JFK Act Anthology will provide a quick reference road map as to what issues are deemed most important and receive proper notice.
Program: The JFK Act Anthology will hopefully be followed by a second edition, after hearings are held, and a third and final JFK Act Anthology III should be prepared and published in 2018, a year after the last, legally with held JFK assassination record is officially slated to be released.
Distribution: The JFK Act Anthology will be posted publicly on the internet and published as a report to be distributed to each member of the House Oversight Committee every member of the Congress, select libraries and research centers.
Focus: The JFK Act Anthology is not concerned with who killed JFK, how they did it or why, but rather, it is focused strictly on the records related to the assassination and how they are affected by the JFK Act. If you would like to contribute to the JFK Act Anthology, your monograph should be related to and of the OUTSTANDING ISSUES II– Related to Records and be directed to the Oversight Committee, as if you are addressing them.
NOTES ON LEGISLATION ISSUES
[Note #1 Deadlines – HR#1553]
The ARRB Final Report notes (under Chapter 2, Section b.1.d. JFK Act Deadlines):
…federal agencies submitted to the Review Board more requests for postponements than the framers of the statute anticipated. While the JFK Act states that “only in the rarest cases” would agencies have a “legitimate need for continued protection” of assassination records, agencies submitted tens of thousands of pages of records to the Board with requests for postponements. Thus, Congress’ three-year timeline for the Review Board to fulfill its mandate was based on a view of agency records that the agencies did not share.
By the spring of 1996, the Review Board believed that in order for it to be faithful to its historical responsibility and commitment to release to the public all known assassination records, it required an additional year. Therefore, it recommended to Congress that the JFK Act be extended for one year.
2. Passage of H.R. 1553
On May 8, 1997, Congressman Dan Burton introduced H.R. 1553, a bill that would amend the JFK Act to provide one additional year for the Review Board to complete its work. Congressman Louis Stokes and Congressman Henry Waxman co-sponsored the bill.
On June 4, 1997, the National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee held a hearing on H.R. 1553. The Honorable Louis Stokes, Review Board Chair John Tunheim, writer Max Holland, and teacher Bruce Hitchcock all testified in support of H.R. 1553.
On July 3, 1997, President Clinton signed H.R. 1553 into law, thus extending the authorization of the Review Board for one additional year, to September 30, 1998.
Following the passage of H.R. 1553, the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight required the Review Board to provide monthly status reports regarding the projected completion of the Board’s mandate. Beginning in August 1997, the Review Board sent monthly letters to the Committee Chairman, Congressman Burton.
The Review Board used its additional year to complete its work and terminated its operations, as promised, on September 30, 1998 .
The ARRB Reports have not yet been obtained. They consist of about 60 pages.
[Note #2 – Records of Monthly ARRB Reports to Oversight Committee]
Assassination Records Review Board, Series 10: Congress
Folder Title List Volume: 2.8 feet Box 7:
- 10.7 Congressional Record-H.R
- 10.8 Review Board Extension Re
- 10.8.1 House
- 10.8.2 Senate
- 10.9 Monthly Reports to Congress
- 10.10 Government Secrecy Act of 1997
[Note #3 – Non-Review Board Aspects of the JFK Act Remain In Effect ]
As the Final Report of the ARRB notes,
Section 12(a) of the JFK Act states that the provisions of the Act that do not pertain to the appointment and operation of the Review Board shall continue in effect until such time as the Archivist certifies to the President and the Congress that all assassination records have been made available to the public in accordance with the Act.”
[Note #4 – Rep.Waxman and Oversight Committee Overview ]
Representative Henry A. Waxman represents California’s 30th Congressional District, which includes the complete cities of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Westlake Village and West Hollywood, as well as such areas of Los Angeles as Beverly-Fairfax, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Beverlywood, Topanga, Agoura, Chatsworth, West Hills, Canoga Park, and Westwood.
In 2007, Rep. Waxman became Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the principal investigative committee in the House. From 1997 to 2006, Rep. Waxman served as Ranking Member of the Committee, conducting investigations into a wide range of topics from the high cost of prescription drugs to waste, fraud, and abuse in government contracting. He formed a Special Investigations Division that prepared hundreds of investigative reports on local and national topics for Members of Congress.
Since 2001, Rep. Waxman has worked to oppose efforts by the Bush Administration to block congressional oversight and roll back health and environmental laws. He has launched investigations of White House ties to Enron, contract abuses in Iraq, and the politicization of science. He has also fought for disclosure of the names of the energy industry lobbyists who shaped the White House energy plan and filed suit to force the Administration to released “adjusted” data from the 2000 Census that corrects for the undercount of minorities. In addition, Rep. Waxman has repeatedly fought efforts by EPA to relax important air pollution and drinking water protections and by FDA to weaken enforcement of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
A leader on health and environmental issues, Rep. Waxman has fought for universal health insurance, comprehensive Medicare and Medicaid coverage, tobacco regulation, AIDS research and treatment, air and water quality standards, pesticide regulations, nursing home quality standards, women’s health research and reproductive rights, affordable prescription drugs, and community rights to know about pollution levels.
Rep. Waxman has been involved in health issues since 1969, when he was appointed to the California State Assembly Health Committee. In Congress, Rep. Waxman has sponsored a long list of health bills that have been enacted into law. These measures include the Ryan White CARE Act, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act, the Safe Medical Devices Act, the Patent Term Restoration and Drug Competition Act, and the Orphan Drug Act.
Rep. Waxman has also passed legislation that improves the quality of nursing homes and home health services and that sets policy for childhood immunization programs, vaccine compensation, tobacco education programs, communicable disease research, community and migrant health centers, maternal and child health care, family planning centers, health maintenance organizations, and drug regulation and reform.
Throughout the 1980s, Rep. Waxman championed national health care reform and improvements in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. He successfully led the fight for improved prenatal and infant care for low-income families, for protection against impoverishment for the spouses of persons in nursing homes, and for more services in the community for people needing long-term care. He has also been an advocate for prescription drug coverage in Medicare for people with high drug expenses.
A longtime defender of the environment, Chairman Waxman most recently introduced the Safe Climate Act of 2006, which would set emissions targets to avoid dangerous, irreversible global warming. He was one of the primary authors of the 1990 Clean Air Act, which sets out a comprehensive program to combat smog, acid rain, toxic air emissions, and ozone depletions. Rep. Waxman also sponsored the 1986 and 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, the 1996 Food Quality Act (which regulates pesticides), the Radon Abatement Act, and the Lead Contamination Control Act.
Chairman Waxman is a leader in efforts to assist the elderly by providing them with opportunities for better health care through such programs as improved long-term nursing care and better housing and nutrition. A strong defender of the Social Security System, he fought moves to reduce benefits and to increase the retirement age. He was a co-author of legislation that abolished mandatory retirement for Federal employees and raised the retirement age in the private sector from 65 to 70.
From 1979 to 1994, Rep. Waxman chaired the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. He served as the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member in 1995 and 1996. Rep. Waxman has also served on the Energy and Commerce Committee and sat on the Subcommittee on Health, the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Chairman Waxman has been a leading supporter of the right of women to have freedom of choice with respect to safe and legal abortions, including the full extension of this right to lower-income women who depend on the Medicaid program for health care. He has been at the forefront of efforts to stop any limitations on this right and strongly opposes the prohibition of federally funded clinics from offering abortion information and counseling.
Since coming to Congress, Chairman Waxman has earned the reputation of being an expert on Middle East policy and an effective proponent of American aid to guarantee Israel’s security and survival.
Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Waxman served three terms in the California State Assembly, where he was chairman of the Health Committee, the Committee on Elections and Reapportionment, and the Select Committee on Medical Malpractice. He was the author of such major legislation as the Fair Campaign Practices Act, the Fair Credit for Women Law, and the legislation establishing standards for Health Maintenance Organizations in California.
Henry Waxman was born September 12, 1939, in Los Angeles, and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA and a J.D. from the UCLA Law School. He and his wife, the former Janet Kessler, have a daughter and son-in-law, a son and daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren.
[Note #6 Subcommittee Chairman William Lacy Clay Profile]
Wm. Lacy Clay was first elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 2000, succeeding his father, the Honorable Bill Clay, who served for 32 years and was a founding Member of the Congressional Black Caucus
Congressman Clay is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives, which regulates the federal government’s information and privacy standards and also oversees the operations of the Census Bureau. One of Congressman Clay’s primary goals as chairman is to work with the Census Bureau to eliminate the undercount of African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities from the upcoming national census in 2010.
Mr. Clay also serves on the full Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has major oversight responsibilities for the operations of the federal government.
Congressman Clay also serves on the powerful Financial Services Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over banking, insurance, investment firms, pensions, consumer credit and capital markets.
Congressman Clay is a tireless defender of the voting rights of every citizen. He has been an outspoken advocate for reforming our nation’s electoral process to ensure that elections are conducted fairly and that every vote is counted accurately. Mr. Clay is working to make certain that any new electronic voting system includes a paper trail for the purpose of verifying the results. He is also working to expand voter registration and to eliminate procedural obstacles that make it harder for minority and disabled voters to take part in the democratic process.
In Congress, Mr. Clay has become a recognized leader in helping minority and low-income families create wealth through home ownership. He has also co-sponsored legislation that would crack down on predatory lending practices. Mr. Clay is a strong supporter of including financial literacy as part of the standard educational curriculum in Kindergarten through High School.
Prior to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Clay served 17 years in both chambers of the Missouri Legislature. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of Missouri’s landmark Hate Crimes Law, which covers crimes committed on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, disabilities and sexual orientation. He also stood up to threats from the Ku Klux Klan to sponsor and pass a bill that designated a portion of Interstate 55 in St. Louis County as the Rosa Parks Highway.
Additionally, hundreds of young people are receiving job training through YouthBuild, a program enacted under his Youth Opportunities and Violence Prevention Act. Mr. Clay also created a new statute that required the inclusion of the history of the Civil Rights Movement in all primary and secondary school curriculums. One of Mr. Clay’s most significant successes was a bill that led to the settlement of the 27-year-long battle over desegregating the public schools in the City of St. Louis.
Wm. Lacy Clay is a native St. Louisan. After graduation from Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1974, he worked as an Assistant Doorkeeper in the U. S. House of Representatives while attending the University of Maryland where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in government and politics. He also attended Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and holds Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degrees from Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University. Congressman Clay is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Progressive Caucus and serves on the Boards of Directors of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the William L. Clay Scholarship and Research Fund. Congressman Clay and his wife, Ivie Lewellen Clay, reside in St. Louis. They are the proud parents of two children: Carol and William III. The Clays attend St. Nicholas’ Catholic Church.
[Note #7 Senior Republican Member and former chairman Dan Burton, co-sponsor of first JFK Act Extension, and now on the Oversight subcommittee on National Security.]
Dan Burton is currently serving his thirteenth term as a United States Representative from Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District. His first term in Congress began in January of 1983. The Fifth District lies in the heart of central Indiana and includes all of Tipton, Grant, Miami, Wabash, Huntington, Hamilton, and Hancock Counties, as well as parts of Marion, Shelby, Howard and Johnson Counties.
When Congressman Burton assumed the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in the 105th Congress, he became the first Hoosier Republican to Chair a full House Committee in more than sixty years. The last was Congressman William Robert Wood, who chaired the Committee on Appropriations during the 71st Congress (1929-1931). Congressman Burton currently serves as Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Also, he is a Senior Member on the Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
Dan Burton was born on June 21, 1938, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He graduated from Shortridge High School in 1957, and attended Indiana University and the Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Congressman Burton received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities from Capitol University of Integrative Medicine on December 17, 2000. As a proud veteran of our Armed Forces, Dan served in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserves (1957-1962). Before his election to Congress, Mr. Burton held office in the Indiana State Senate (1969-70 and 1981-82), as well as in the Indiana House of Representatives (1967-68 and 1977-80).
[Note #8 Oversight Committee Rules and Procedures]
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT & INVESTIGATIONS:
A USER’S GUIDE TO RELEVANT HOUSE RULES
General Oversight Responsibilities (clause 2, Rule X) –
Requires each standing committee (except Appropriations) to review on a continuing basis the laws, programs and agencies under its jurisdiction to determine whether they should be continued, curtailed, or terminated.
Oversight Subcommittees (clause 2(b)(2), Rule X) –
Requires each committee having more than 20 members to establish a subcommittee on oversight, or require its subcommittees to conduct oversight of their respective jurisdictions, to assist in carrying out its responsibilities under this clause. The establishment of an oversight subcommittee does not limit the responsibility of a subcommittee with legislative jurisdiction in carrying out its oversight duties.
Submission of Committee Oversight Plan (clause 2(d)(1), Rule X) –
Each standing committee shall, no later than February 15th of the first session of a Congress, in a meeting that is open to the public and with a quorum present, adopt its oversight plan for that Congress. Such plan shall be submitted simultaneously to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Committee on House Administration.
Special Oversight Functions (clause 3, Rule X) –
Special oversight functions are assigned to the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, Budget, Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, Government Reform, International Relations, Resources, Rules, Science, and Small Business. Additional
Functions of Committees (clause 4, Rule X) –
Additional review requirements for the Committees on Appropriations, Budget, Oversight and Government Reform, and House Administration (clauses 4(a)-(d)); Budget Act responsibilities for all standing committees (clause 4(f)); each standing committee should review from time to time those programs within its jurisdiction for which appropriations are not made annually (clause 4(e)(2)).
Committee Staff Rights (clause 9(g), Rule X) –
Each statutory and investigative staff member shall be accorded equitable treatment with respect to the fixing of the rate of pay, the assignment of work facilities, and the accessibility of committee records.
Investigative Authority (clause 1(b), Rule XI) –
Each committee is authorized at any time to conduct such investigations and studies as it may consider necessary or appropriate in the exercise of its responsibilities under Rule X.
Committee Activity Reports (clause 1(d), Rule XI) –
Each committee shall submit to the House not later than January 2nd of each odd-numbered year a report on its legislative and oversight activities under Rule X. Any Member of the committee may exercise their right to file views.
Committee Meetings (clause 2(b) and (c), Rule XI) –
Committees must establish a regular meeting day (at least once a month); the chairman may call additional meetings; three or more members of a committee may file a written request for a special meeting and if the chairman does not call the meeting within 3 calendar days to be held within 7 calendar days, a majority of the committee members may file written notice that the special meeting will be called.
Committee Records (clause 2(e), Rule XI) –
Committees shall keep complete records and files; all committee hearings, records, data, charts and files shall be kept separate from the chairman’s congressional office files. These records are considered the property of the House, and each Member, Delegate, and the Resident Commissioner shall have access to them, with the exception of the records of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Open Meetings and Hearings (clause 2(g), Rule XI) –
Committee meetings, with the exception of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, shall be open unless a majority votes (by record vote) to close a meeting (a majority being present); hearings shall be open unless a majority votes (by record vote) to close them for certain specified reasons, including national security or personal privacy reasons. No House Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may be excluded from nonparticipatory attendance at any committee or subcommittee hearing, with the exception of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Committee hearings must be publicly announced at least one week in advance unless the committee determines that there is “good cause,” or the chairman and ranking member agree to begin a hearing sooner; and witnesses should be required to present advance copies of their written statements.
Committee Quorums (clause 2(h), Rule XI) –
Each committee may fix the quorum for taking testimony which shall not be less than two, and may fix a quorum at one-third of the members for taking any other action other than reporting measures. Exceptions to this rule are the Committees on Appropriations, Budget, and Ways and Means.
Minority Right to Call Witnesses (clause 2(j), Rule XI) –
Whenever a hearing is conducted on any measure or matter the Minority shall, upon the written request of a majority of the Minority members before the completion of the hearing, be entitled to call witnesses selected by the Minority during at least one day of hearing on the measure or matter.
Hearing Procedures (clause 2(k), Rule XI) –
This clause enumerates the duties of the chairman and rights of witnesses in connection with hearings, including procedures for taking potentially defamatory testimony in executive session. No evidence taken in executive session may be released or used in public session without a vote of the committee, a majority being present.
Committee Reports (clause 2(l), Rule XI and clause 3, Rule XIII) –
These clauses outline the certain matters that must be contained in committee reports. Members also have a minimum of two calendar days in which to file supplemental, minority, or additional views on any measure or matter, which must be included in the committee report.
Power to Sit and Act; Subpoena Power (clause 2(m), Rule XI) –
Committees are authorized to sit and act at any time in carrying out their functions under Rule X, and to require testimony or materials by subpoena or otherwise. A subpoena may be authorized and issued by a committee or subcommittee in the conduct of any investigation or series of investigations only when authorized by the committee or subcommittee, a majority being present. The power to authorize and issue subpoenas may be delegated to the chairman of the full committee pursuant to such rules and limitations as the committee may prescribe. Compliance with subpoenas may be enforced only as authorized or directed by the House. A majority vote of the full committee is necessary to issue a subpoena in the Committee on Standards and Official Conduct.
Investigative Authority of the Committee on Standards (clause 3, Rule XI) –
This clause outlines the investigative authorities of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct with respect to the official conduct of Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and officers or employees of the House.
Audio and Visual Coverage of Committee Proceedings (clause 4(e), Rule XI) –
Whenever a committee meeting or hearing is open to the public, it must also be open to coverage by radio, television, and still photography.
Resolutions of Inquiry (clause 7, Rule XIII) –
All resolutions of inquiry addressed to the heads of executive departments shall be reported to the House within 14 legislative days after introduction. Resolutions of inquiry are simple House resolutions directing agency heads (or requesting the President) to produce certain factual information (not investigation, advice, or opinion).
[Note #7 ARRB Recomendations]
Review Board Recommendations
The Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board provides not only an opportunity to detail the extraordinary breadth and depth of the Board’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. It is true that the Board’s role was to a large extent disciplined and tightly focused on the assassination, its aftermath and the broader Cold War context in which the events occurred.
Any evaluation, however, of the unique experience of the Review Board–five private citizens granted unprecedented powers to require public release of long-secret federal records–inevitably presents the larger question of how the Board’s work can be applied to federal records policy. There is no doubt that for decades the pendulum had swung sharply toward secrecy and away from openness. Changes wrought by the end of the Cold War and the public’s desire to know have begun to shift the balance. The Review Board’s mandate represented a new frontier in this changing balance–an entirely new declassification process applied to the most-sought after government secrets. In this chapter, the Board steps back and reflects on its experiences, raises issues that will help frame the declassification debate, and makes recommendations on the lessons to be learned from the path taken to release of the Kennedy assassination collection. The dialogue about how best to balance national security and privacy with openness and accountability will continue both within government and beyond. The Review Board will necessarily be part of that important debate.
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. Thus the debate in Congress largely became a debate over what mechanisms could constitutionally compel the opening of the assassination files.
The Review Board’s mandate was not to investigate once again the assassination, but to release as many of these heavily restricted documents as possible. Lawmakers commented that the efforts of the Review Board “will stand as a symbol and barometer of public confidence in the review and release of the government records related to the assassination of President Kennedy….Several provisions of [the JFK Act] are intended to provide as much independence and accountability as is possible within our Constitutional framework.” Restoring public confidence in government is a difficult task under any circumstances.
The Review Board took this responsibility seriously, however, and set out in April 1994 to create the most complete record possible of the documentary evidence of the assassination so that in the end the American public could draw its own conclusions as to what happened and why on that fateful day in Dallas in November 1963.
From the start, the Review Board did as much of its work in public as it could possibly do, given the classified material with which it worked. The Board’s major policy decisions were all made after carefully consulting with the public through public hearings and Federal Register notices. Many of the Board’s requests to agencies for additional information were suggested by the Board’s continuing dialogue with researchers, authors, and experts. Frequent public hearings outside of Washington, experts conferences, ongoing public releases of the records, witness interviews, and media availability were among the many tools the Board used to reach out and communicate with a public strongly interested in the results of the Board’s work. The result was that the Board was helped immeasurably not only by the advice and suggestions that resulted from this public dialogue, but by the records that were discovered and opened through the communications. The broad definition of “assassination record” and the foundation for the taking of the original Zapruder film were developed through public hearings. Furthermore, some of the Board’s most significant acquisitions of donated collections–for example, the Rankin papers, the Wegmann papers, and the Garrison grand jury transcripts–were the result of the public hearings.
Public involvement in the Review Board’s work was critical to the success of the Board, both because public participation was important for public confidence and because public involvement produced results. The assassination research community, in particular, provided many useful suggestions to the Board, but more importantly perhaps, monitored the Board’s work closely and did not permit the Board to back off in its search for records.
The Review Board began its work at a slow pace, which was necessary for a group of five private citizens with no prior involvement with the issue. Preparation to weigh the important competing interests of national security and privacy with the public interest took time. Education of the Board and the equally important development of trust among the Board, its staff, and agency reviewers takes time, and future declassification efforts need to take that into account. What developed from the early extensive discussions between the Board, its staff and the agency reviewers were thoughtful and well-reasoned decisions that reflected the Board’s commitment to the legislation as well as the Board’s collective interest in developing the fullest possible historical record surrounding this tragic event.
The precedents that developed from the Board’s early deliberations guided the staff in its review of the records and guided agency reviewers in the positions they took toward postponement requests. The development of this unique and valuable set of decisions, which came to be known as the Board’s “common law,” eventually resulted in thousands of “consent releases,” in which documents moved directly from the agencies without redactions to NARA.
There were, of course, many substantive disagreements between the Board and the agencies, but the course of the relationships were characterized chiefly by growing mutual understanding and markedly improved communications. The Board was gratified to see agency reviewers and decision makers grow increasingly aware that the responsible release of information can provide an opportunity to create a more complete record of the extensive work that many agencies did on the issues raised by the assassination. Many appeared also to gain a greater appreciation of the tremendous costs of secrecy, both in terms of public confidence and maintenance of records.
There were critics of the Review Board, those who believed that the “targeted declassification” of assassination records not only interfered with the goal of systematic declassification directed by Executive Order 12958, but was also much too expensive. It is difficult, of course, to compare one method of declassification with another, harder still to place a price tag on the nature of the information that is now released and available to the American public. It is worth noting that the Kennedy assassination records were largely segregated due to the use of the records during the many prior government investigations of the assassination. But, the Review Board does recognize that any meaningful approach to declassification will of necessity be multi-faceted, with different methods adopted for different circumstances. The particular circumstances of the assassination of President Kennedy and the highly secretive governmental response have had an enormous impact on public confidence and made the Review Board approach singularly appropriate. When viewed in that light the cost of this four-year project seems entirely appropriate, particularly when compared with the significant costs, both financial and otherwise, of keeping the record secret. The Board is confident that, in this setting, the approach chosen by the Congress to open the Kennedy assassination records was a highly effective one.
The Review Board is certainly aware that there are a great many unresolved issues relating to the assassination of President Kennedy that will be addressed in the years to come. The massive public collection of documents that awaits the researchers will undoubtedly shed light not only on the assassination, but on its broader context as an episode of the Cold War. The community of professional historians, who initially exhibited comparatively slight interest in the Board’s work, has begun paying attention with the new accessibility of records that reflect the Cold War context in which the assassination was enmeshed. Ultimately, it will be years before the JFK Collection at NARA can be judged properly. The test will be in the scholarship that is generated by historians and other researchers who study the extensive documentation of the event and its aftermath. Does the historical record formed by the Board inspire confidence that the record is now reasonably complete? Will the documents released under the JFK Act lead to still other materials? Will the mass of documentary evidence answer the questions posed by historians and others? Will the Board’s compliance program inspire confidence that the agencies have produced all the relevant documentation that exists today in agency files? What do the records tell us about the 1960s and the Cold War context of the assassination?
The Review Board approach, the precedent created, the tools identified, and the lessons learned will assist future researchers immeasurably. Agency reviewers will note that the Republic has not collapsed under the weight of threats to national security because of Review Board actions and, perhaps, they will also note that openness is itself a good thing and that careful scrutiny of government actions can strengthen agencies and the process of government, not weaken it. There likely will be problems in the future that best lend themselves to the extraordinary attention that a similarly empowered Review Board can focus. Formation of a historical record that can augment understanding of important events is central not only to openness and accountability, but to democracy itself.
At an early stage in the Review Board’s efforts, one of the Board members commented that the Board should strive to accomplish as much as it could, to be remembered for what it attempted. Or, to paraphrase Robert Kennedy, the Board should work hard to ensure that its reach continually exceeded its grasp. The Board did not always achieve that standard, but the sheer scope and accessibility of the JFK Collection speaks eloquently about the effort. The Board has left to posterity a historical bequest that is invaluable and unprecedented.
The Review Board presents recommendations that reflect the Board’s experience and provides guidance for those who wish to capitalize on that experience to further reform the process of classification and declassification of federal documents. The Board recognizes that the JFK Act represents but one approach to declassification, one whose activity was designed to review sensitive records concerning a controversial event.
1. The Review Board recommends that future declassification boards be genuinely independent, both in the structure of the organization and in the qualifications of the appointments.
The Review Board’s independence was grounded in the concept that the Board was in fact an independent agency in the executive branch with powers granted through its enabling legislation. This independence was consequently as political as it was legal, facilitating the Board’s relations with the agencies.
Although appointed by the President, members of the Review Board could not be terminated except for just cause. By not submitting the Review Board to the supervisory authority of the executive branch, providing an independent staff who answered only to the Board, and establishing strong statutory standards governing the review of records, the JFK Act provided political and legal balance for the conflict with agencies. This balance was absolutely necessary for the Board to stand up to experts and their national security claims.
Furthermore, the independent qualifications of Board members is likewise important. A group of five outsiders, uninvolved in previous investigations or research concerning the assassination, but trained in historical, archival, and legal issues that are central to the records of the assassination, the Board collectively brought a perspective framed by professional training and experience. The absence of any connection or allegiance to the agencies freed the Board to make truly independent decisions. The Review Board absolutely needed its independence in order to accomplish its statutory mandate. For any group charged with declassifying secret records, independence is an essential attribute.
2. The Review Board recommends that any serious, sustained effort to declassify records requires congressional legislation with (a) a presumption of openness, (2) clear standards of access, (3) an enforceable review and appeals process, and (4) a budget appropriate to the scope of the task.
The JFK Act established admirable and effective standards through its standards of “presumption of disclosure” for releasing records and “clear and convincing evidence of harm” in restricting them. Both standards helpfully guided the Board in its decision making, were understandable and simple in application. The Board strongly urges that these standards be applied to other efforts to declassify federal records. The discerning enumeration in the Act of criteria for sustaining restricted access created an obligation both for the Review Board and the agencies to apply these criteria to the many issues presented in the documents. These criteria for sustaining restrictions, especially that of “clear and convincing evidence of harm,” provide a very important focus and disciplined way of thinking about federal records and the information they often contain.
The central fact that the access standards were embodied in Congressional legislation was of immeasurable assistance to the Review Board. Although Congress’ inclusion of such standards in the JFK Act nearly sparked a constitutional battle over the Act’s legality, the power of independence by Congressional mandate surely muted a fair number of agency disputes. Standards set through agency recommendations and presidential inclusion in an executive order would have limited the Board’s ability to compel disclosure.
Other powers conferred on the Board by the JFK Act were similarly central to the exercise of the Board’s duties. The agencies could challenge Board decisions only by appealing decisions to the President, who has the “non-delegable” responsibility to decide them. This stringent provision raised our declassification activity to a threshold level that prompted the agencies to weigh the ramifications of any appeal that expended valuable political capital.
The access standards have been a central consideration in guiding the work of the Board, never far from any discussion or decision. Their importance cannot be overlooked, and the pervading influence of the standards was consistently reflected in our deliberations. In balancing the public interest and harm of disclosure, the Board determined that the precept of a “presumption of disclosure” prevailed in every case where there was salient information relative to the assassination.
The Board’s relationship with the agencies often faltered over the “clear and convincing evidence of harm” standard. This exacting standard, borrowed from the criminal law, was not only a new declassification criterion, but it placed the burden on the agency to explain why information should remain shrouded in secrecy. This occasioned conflict and misunderstanding, especially as the agencies complained that satisfying the test required unwarranted expenditure of scarce funds. The Board, however, insisted on adherence to the legislative provisions, and the agencies ultimately learned, for the most part, how to satisfy the Board’s expectations. As interpreted by the Review Board, “clear and convincing evidence of harm” required specific reasons for protection. General concepts of “national security” and “individual privacy” were insufficient. If harm were to be caused by release, the Board insisted on understanding the harm.
Thus, the specific standard resulted in greater fidelity to the law and more accurate decision making by the Review Board.
Moreover, the Congress provided adequate and sufficient funds for the Board to hire staff to undertake its work. The Board was fortunate to recruit talented and dedicated colleagues who worked closely with the Board to fulfill its important mission. The Review Board’s accomplishment is, in a direct way, that of the staff, and the Board is indebted to them. Other federal declassification efforts, especially at NARA, need substantially more resources if they are successfully to accomplish their mandates. The work of the Review Board staff shows what adequate funding can achieve.
3. The Review Board recommends that its “common law” of decision, formed in the context of a “presumption of disclosure” and the “clear and convincing evidence of harm” criteria, be utilized for similar information in future declassification efforts as a way to simplify and speed up releases.
The Review Board’s understanding of the important standards of a “presumption of disclosure” in the release of documents and “clear and convincing evidence of harm” in sustaining restricted access and its application of the more specific section 6 standards developed slowly as the Board applied the law to the many postponement issues raised in the documents.
In time, the body of decision making began to grow, and with it what was termed the Board’s “common law,” a collection of decisions that greatly informed staff and agency reviewers how to apply the JFK Act and saved an enormous amount of time by handling similar information in similar ways.
Many documents share common characteristics. The names of agents and informants, crypts, digraphs, the location of CIA installations abroad, and other numerical data used to identify documents, recurred constantly in the documents examined by the Review Board and helped form the Review Board “common law” about how to treat redacted information in federal documents.
As the effort to declassify federal documents presses forward on other fronts, the Review Board believes that there are common ways of handling these categories of information, so that similar substitute language may be provided, and there might also be consensus concerning how long the information needs to be restricted. Handling restricted documents by adopting common substitute language as appropriate will also enhance the efficiency of the review, lowering unit costs for processing documents.
Codification of these rules of application would permit restricted access to some of this information, and yet still indicate to researchers and other citizens what kind of identifying information had been withheld and for how long. The idea of substitute language for critical pieces of redacted information, together with less sweeping and more discerning application of what is to be withheld, offers a promising way of limiting the volume of restricted information in federal documents, either through more uniform and limited classification rules or through earlier and more declassification.
4. The Review Board recommends that future declassification efforts avoid the major shortcomings of the JFK Act: (a) unreasonable time limits, (b) employee restrictions, (c) application of the law after the Board terminates, and (d) problems inherent with rapid sunset provisions.
If the JFK Act represented a milestone in articulating important new principles by which to review classified records, there were also shortcomings in the law that should be avoided in future declassification efforts. They include:
· the timetable laid out for the Review Board to accomplish its work was unrealistic and required the Board to play “catch up” from the beginning and required agencies to duplicate their work after the Board began its work;
· the provision that the Board could not hire staff who were currently working anywhere in the government seemed unduly restrictive, and obliged the Board to undertake costly and time-consuming security checks for most employees, for whom security clearances were central to their work with classified documents;
· the Review Board sunsets but the JFK Act does not and, as a result, there is uncertainty about the status of openings that will occur after September 1998, and whether any further appeals by agencies might be permitted, and, if so, who would represent the interest of openness;
· the sunset provision in the JFK Act, while embodying the important concept that this effort was not to be permanent, nonetheless undermined the careful review and disposition of the records. The Board inevitably lost critical staff in the final stages because they had to seek job security for themselves and their families. Moreover, the sunset enabled government agencies that were not inclined to cooperate to simply try to outlast the Board. A more open-ended provision would be preferable, in which the Board, supervised by its congressional oversight committee and the Office of Management and Budget, would declare its progress, but not set a termination date until there was agreement concerning the successful completion of the mandate.
5. The Review Board recommends that the cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive problem of referrals for “third party equities” (classified information of one agency appearing in a document of another) be streamlined by (A) requiring representatives of all agencies with interests in selected groups of records to meet for joint declassification sessions, or (B) devising uniform substitute language to deal with certain categories of recurring sensitive equities.
The practice of extensive classification of government documents has created a jungle of secrecy in which agencies are protective of one another’s prerogatives, meticulously referring records to the originating agency in all cases. The frequency of this occurrence has had a substantial impact on the rate and pace of release of such information. It is not surprising that sensitive information is shared extensively, especially among law enforcement and intelligence agencies. One consequence of this sharing is that one agency’s restricted information is often found in another’s files. When this occurs, the agency creating the information must agree to its release by another agency. Such equities are expensive to search and release.
The Review Board developed an effective means of mitigating these cumbersome referrals by convening on occasion representatives of agencies with interests in the documents so that a group of documents could be collectively declassified at once, with representatives there to sign off on the specific interests associated with each agency. A second means of easing this problem is to develop a uniform means of dealing with certain recurring categories of sensitive information. One such way would be to use agreed-upon substitute language to avoid the originating agency referral.
6. The Review Board recommends that a compliance program be used in future declassification efforts as an effective means of eliciting full cooperation in the search for records.
The Review Board compliance program was established to ensure that all federal agencies holding assassination records would warrant under oath that every reasonable effort had been made to identify assassination records and that such records had been made fully available for review by the Board. The Board has remained concerned that critical records may have been withheld from the Board’s scrutiny and that the Board did not secure all that was “out there.” It is all too easy to imagine that agencies and agency personnel not inclined to cooperate might simply have waited, using the JFK Act’s sunset provision by waiting for it to take effect and ending the need to cooperate.
The Review Board’s solution to this concern was to develop a compliance program in which each agency designated a “compliance officer” to warrant, under oath and penalty of perjury, that records had been diligently searched for and turned over to the Board for review and/or release to NARA. This program entails a detailed review (overseen by Review Board staff) of the effort undertaken by each agency in pursuit of such records and constitutes a record to guide future researchers in examining what assassination records were actually uncovered. The program is also intended to be forward-looking, so that the agencies will continue to follow the provisions of the JFK Act after the Board terminates its role. The program has worked well.
7. The Review Board recommends the following to ensure that NARA can exercise the provisions of the JFK Act after the Review Board terminates:
a. that NARA has the authority and means to continue to implement Board decisions,
b. that an appeals procedure be developed that places the burden for preventing access on the agencies, and
c. that a joint oversight group composed of representatives of the four organizations that originally nominated individuals to serve on the Review Board be created to facilitate the continuing execution of the access provisions of the JFK Act.
The creation of the JFK Collection at NARA established a large records collection undergoing intense use by researchers. Having created this national research resource, Congress should ensure that NARA receives the additional resources necessary to manage this collection responsibly, and that it is also be given the authority to administer the remaining provisions of the JFK Act.
The Board recommends negotiation of a memorandum of understanding among NARA, the FBI, and the CIA that would establish a common agreement on how to resolve the inevitable issues concerning the extensive assassination records of these two agencies. This is particularly necessary since additional records will be sent to NARA and additional releases of documents are scheduled to take place after the termination of the Review Board.
The formation of a liaison group
composed of individuals from professional organizations that originally nominated members for the Review Board to oversee implementation of the provisions of the JFK Act would ensure the continuing representation of the public interest by those trained to understand continuing historical, archival, and legal issues.
8. The Review Board recommends that the Review Board model be adopted and applied whenever there are extraordinary circumstances in which continuing controversy concerning government actions has been most acute and where an aggressive effort to release all “reasonably related” federal records would serve usefully to enhance historical understanding of the event.
The public stake is clear in creating a mechanism such as the Review Board to inform American citizens of the details of some of the most controversial events in American history. Moreover, the release of documents enables citizens to form their own views of events, to evaluate the actions of elected and appointed officials, and to hold them to account. There will not be a large number of such events, but there must be procedures grounded in experience that might be used to uncover the truth when these events, tragic as most of them are, occur. The provisions of the JFK Act have fostered the release of such documents, and the Board’s experience demonstrates that similar legislation would be successful in the future.
9. The Review Board recommends that both the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Executive Order 12958 be strengthened, the former to narrow the categories of information automatically excluded from disclosure, the latter to add “independent oversight” to the process of “review” when agency heads decide that records in their units should be excluded from release.
Despite the sound public policy goals encompassed in both the FOIA and Executive Order 12958, both of these measures fall short of their goal of access, as evidenced by the inability of researchers to use these measures to obtain access to assassination records. The categories of exclusion are far too broad in the FOIA to constitute a meaningful program of opening restricted federal records, and the succession of executive orders issued since the FOIA was enacted reflects the same problem. The most recent, Executive Order 12958, also fails by not creating for federal agencies an “oversight” procedure to ensure that the decisions concerning access to agency records made by that agency’s head will be independently reviewed. The mandate to release should be internalized in the agencies and penalties for secrecy must rival in consequence those for unauthorized release.
The mandate of the Review Board, underscored by powers conferred in the JFK Act and further aided by an adequate appropriation, far exceeds what the FOIA and executive orders can accomplish because the Review Board has the authority and resources to both review and release. Proponents of the FOIA and executive order declassification would benefit from consulting the JFK Act to identify how best to augment the resources and authority of those measures.
10. The Review Board recommends the adoption of a federal classification policy that substantially:
a. limits the number of those in government who can actually classify federal documents,
b. restricts the number of categories by which documents might be classified,
c. reduces the time period for which the document(s) might be classified,
d. encourages the use of substitute language to immediately open material which might otherwise be classified, and
e. increases the resources available to the agencies and NARA for declassifying federal records.
The Review Board’s experience leaves little doubt that the federal government needlessly and wastefully classified and then withheld from public access countless important records that did not require such treatment. Consequently, there is little doubt that an aggressive policy is necessary to address the significant problems of lack of accountability and an uninformed citizenry that are created by the current practice of excessive classification and obstacles to releasing such information. This need is not something recently identified, although the Moynihan Commission on Secrecy in Government is a recent expression of this long-standing concern. Change is long overdue and the Review Board’s experience amply demonstrates the value of sharing important information with the American public. It is a matter of trust.
The Review Board’s recommendations are designed to help ensure that the comprehensive documentary record of the Kennedy assassination is both actively developed after the Board terminates, and that the experience of the Review Board be turned to the larger purpose of addressing the negative consequences of the excessive classification of federal records. The Review Board’s effort to accomplish the purposes of the JFK Act has been focused and aggressive. It will be for others, of course, to judge the Board’s success in achieving these goals, but there can be no doubt about our commitment to making the JFK Act and an independent Review Board a model for the future.
[End of ARRB Recomendations from Final Report]
A PRIMER ON COMMITTEE REPORTS
“It has been a rule of the House since 1880 that bills reported from a committee must be accompanied by written reports . . . The report of a committee is in the nature of argument or explanation. . . It is the duty of each committee chairman to ‘promptly’ report measures approved by the committee to the House.”
William Holmes Brown, House Practice, Pages 261-262
The rules of the House specify the form and content of committee reports. The rules require inclusion of a series of matters in each committee report accompanying legislation ordered reported by a committee. Those requirements are found in clause 3 of House rule XIII In addition, a fairly standard format for committee reports has evolved over the years, with each committee refining that format to best suit its purposes.
While many of the required elements of committee reports have remained constant over the past several Congresses, the House has streamlined and updated the specific requirements for committee reports.
This document offers a recommended form for committee reports, and the specific portions of these reports that are required by House rules and the Congressional Budget Act. There are also numerous statutes that require reports accompanying certain types of legislation to contain specific information. Such statutes include the Congressional Accountability Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. As the application of these requirements is not universal for all bills or all House committees and the failure to comply with these statutes does not trigger a point of order on the floor of the House against consideration of the pending measure, these statutory requirements are not included in this primer.
Basic Elements of a Committee Report
1. Cover Page
Legislative Counsel can provide the necessary format for the cover page of a committee report. This page will include the title of the bill, the date on which the report was ordered to be printed, the name of the chairman submitting the report, notation of the legislation the report accompanies, and a reference to the report’s inclusion of the cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office as well as supplemental, minority, or additional views which are also included at the end of the report.
In addition, the cover page will note the committee’s action on the legislation as well as any committee recommendation with respect to the legislation. This recommendation usually takes any of the following forms: “that the bill do pass,” “that the bill do not pass” or “without recommendation.” If the committee has adopted an amendment to the legislation, the text of that amendment will appear at this point in the committee report.
2. Purpose of the Legislation
The report should succinctly describe the purpose of the legislation. This is often an enhanced version of the purpose of the legislation printed on the introduced bill.
3. Bill Summary
This section provides the committee with the opportunity to outline the specific components of the legislation. Generally, for bills containing more than one section, the bill summary should be done in a “section-by-section” format, with the description and analysis of the legislative impact of each section.
4. Committee Consideration
This section should briefly outline the legislative history of the legislation, specifically it’s introduction, the actions of any other committees that have considered the bill, and the actions undertaken by the reporting committee in considering this legislation. This outline should describe briefings or hearings held and should include a summary of the mark-up session on the legislation, highlighting any votes that were taken in committee to either amend or to order the legislation reported.
5. Background and Need for the Legislation
This section provides the committee with the forum to “make its case” for the legislation accompanying the report. It is here that the committee presents the historical context and rationale for its action in ordering the legislation reported and encouraging the House to pass the bill. This portion of the report is a key component of what is known as the “legislative history” of a bill once it has become law. Future legislators, the courts, administration officials, lawyers and citizens may refer to this part of the committee report in the implementation of the new law or when questions arise over “the intent of Congress” with respect to this legislation. The “Background and Need for the Legislation” section forms the basis of the committee’s argument or explanation as to why the House should approve the underlying bill and what the bill is meant to address.
The President John F. Kennedy
Assassination Records Collection
Extension Act of 1994
This Act may be cited as the “President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Extension Act of 1994”.
Extension of Act
Section 7(o)(1) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended
(1) by striking “2 years after the date of enactment of this Act” and inserting “September 30, 1996”; and
(2) by striking “2-year”.
Amendments Relating to Review Board Powers
Section 7(j)(1) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended
(1) in subparagraph (E) by striking “and” after the semicolon;
(2) in subparagraph (F) by striking the period and inserting “; and”; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
“(G) use the Federal Supply Service in the same manner and under the same conditions as other departments and agencies of the United States; and
“(H) use the United States mails in the same manner and under the same conditions as other departments and agencies of the United States.”.
Amendments Relating to Review Board Personnel
(a) Security Clearance for Review Board Personnel- Section 8 of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(e) Security Clearance Required- An individual employed in any position by the Review Board (including an individual appointed as Executive Director) shall be required to qualify for any necessary security clearance prior to taking office in that position, but may be employed conditionally in accordance with subsection (b)(3)(B) before qualifying for that clearance.”.
(b) Appointment and Termination of Staff, Generally- Section 8(b) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended by striking “(b) Staff- ” and all that follows through the end of paragraph (1) and inserting the following:
“(b) Staff- (1) The Review Board, without regard to the civil service laws, may appoint and terminate additional personnel as are necessary to enable the Review Board and its Executive Director to perform the duties of the Review Board.”.
(c) Review Board Administrative Staff- Section 8(b)(2) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended
(1) by striking “A person” and inserting “(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), a person”; and
(2) by adding at the end the following:
“(B) An individual who is an employee of the Government may be appointed to the staff of the Review Board if in that position the individual will perform only administrative functions.”.
(d) Conditional Employment of Staff- Section 8(b)(3)(B) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended to read as follows:
(i) The Review Board may offer conditional employment to a candidate for a staff position pending the completion of security clearance background investigations. During the pendency of such investigations, the Review Board shall ensure that any such employee does not have access to, or responsibility involving, classified or otherwise restricted assassination record materials.
(ii) If a person hired on a conditional basis under clause (i) is denied or otherwise does not qualify for all security clearances necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the position for which conditional employment has been offered, the Review Board shall immediately terminate the person’s employment.”.
(e) Compensation of Staff- Section 8(c) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (21 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended to read as follows:
“(c) Compensation- Subject to such rules as may be adopted by the Review Board, the chairperson, without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States Code, governing appointments in the competitive service and without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of that title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates, may
(1) appoint an Executive Director, who shall be paid at a rate not to exceed the rate of basic pay for level V of the Executive Schedule; and
(2) appoint and fix compensation of such other personnel as may be necessary to carry out this Act.”.
Section 6(1) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) is amended in the matter preceding subparagraph (A) by inserting “record” after “the assassination”.
By the spring of 1996, the Review Board believed that in order for it to be faithful to its historical responsibility and commitment to release to the public all known assassination records, it required an additional year. Therefore, it recommended to Congress that the JFK Act be extended for one year.
2. Passage of H.R. 1553
On May 8, 1997, Congressman Dan Burton introduced H.R. 1553, a bill that would amend the JFK Act to provide one additional year for the Review Board to complete its work. Congressman Louis Stokes and Congressman Henry Waxman co-sponsored the bill.
On June 4, 1997, the National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee held a hearing on H.R. 1553. The Honorable Louis Stokes, Review Board Chair John Tunheim, writer Max Holland, and teacher Bruce Hitchcock all testified in support of H.R. 1553. On July 3, 1997, President Clinton signed H.R. 1553 into law, thus extending the authorization of the Review Board for one additional year, to September 30, 1998.
MORE INFORMATION ON WAXMAN COMMITTEE:
White House Use of Private E-mails.
Committee on Oversight and Reform
Rep. Waxman Introduces Legislation to Restore Transparency and Open Government Laws
Rep. Waxman introduced legislation to reverse the Bush Administration’s assault on open government by restoring laws promoting transparency. The Restore Open Government Act of 2005 (H.R. 2331) requires public disclosure of government information and presidential documents, promotes timely declassification of information, and prohibits secret advisory meetings between government officials and private parties.
Summary of THE RESTORE OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT OF 2005 (H.R. 2331):
Restoring the Presumption of Public Disclosure of Information: The bill overturns the “Ashcroft Memo,” which restricts release of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the “Card Memo,” which urges agencies to stretch FOIA exemptions to withhold any “sensitive” information. The bill restores the policy that agencies should release requested information absent some finding of harm.
Eliminating Unnecessary Pseudo-Classification Designations: The bill calls on the Archivist of the United States to report on the use of pseudo-classification designations, such as “sensitive but unclassified” and “for official use only.” Unnecessary pseudo-classification designations are banned, and the use of other information control designations is restricted.
Restoring Public Access to Presidential Records: The bill repeals President Bush’s executive order on presidential records, which severely curtailed release of these important historical documents, and restores President Reagan’s executive order on presidential records.
Prohibiting Secret Advisory Committees: The bill prevents the White House from establishing advisory committees of government employees that meet secretly with industry groups, as did the Vice President’s energy task force. Under the bill, these advisory committees must reveal their meetings and communications with private parties.
Promoting Timely Declassification of Government Documents: The bill promotes public access to information and helps prioritize declassification by funding the Public Interest Declassification Board. The bill calls on the Archivist of the United States to levy a fee on agencies to pay for the operations of the Board.
Improving the Operations of the Freedom of Information Act: The bill restores the integrity of FOIA by limiting the broad FOIA exemption for critical infrastructure information created in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The bill further creates transparency in agency compliance with FOIA and makes it more feasible for citizen groups to challege…
OFFICIAL REPORT ON JFK ACT EXTENSION:
Committee Reports for the 105th Congress
House Report 105-138 – Part 1
TO AMEND THE PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATION RECORDS COLLECTION ACT OF 1992 TO EXTEND THE AUTHORIZATION OF THE ASSASSINATION RECORDS REVIEW BOARD UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30, 1998
The Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, to whom was referred the bill (H.R. 1553) to amend the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 to extend the authorization of the Assassination Records Review Board until September 30, 1998, having considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.
The purpose of H.R. 1553, introduced by Chairman Burton, is to extend for one year the authorization of the Assassination Records Review Board, in order to allow the Board to finish reviewing and publicly releasing the Federal Government’s records, and other records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and to issue its final report. H.R. 1553 extends the Review Board’s September 30, 1997, termination date under current law to September 30, 1998. This legislation authorizes $1.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 1998 for this purpose. The President’s FY 1998 budget requested this one-year authorization extension and the additional $1.6 million.
The Committee believes it is important that the Federal Government complete the process of publicly releasing the Kennedy assassination records. If this legislation is not passed, the Review Board will be forced to discontinue its operations at the end of FY 1997, without having reviewed and released the large numbers of remaining documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other sources, and without having issued its final report.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was one of the most significant event in American history since the dropping of the atomic bombs that ended World War II. Most Americans who were alive at that time can easily recall where they were and what they were doing when they first heard news of the tragedy in Dallas. Although nearly 34 years have passed since November 22, 1963, there is still a great deal of public interest in the Kennedy assassination.
The Kennedy assassination has been the subject of several high-profile Government investigations, including Congressional investigations. These investigations included the Warren Commission (1963-64), the Rockefeller Commission (1975), the Church Committee in the Senate (1975-76), and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (1976-79), which was chaired by Congressman Louis Stokes of Ohio. Despite the intense efforts behind these various investigations, they reached somewhat different conclusions, resulting in continued public uncertainty regarding the circumstances surrounding the assassination. The secrecy of the Federal Government’s records relating to the assassination further raised concerns about why important information was being withheld from the public. Numerous books, magazine articles, and the Oliver Stone film `JFK’ further attest to Americans’ deep interest in finding out the truth about the Kennedy assassination.
In 1992, Congress decided to take a different approach: Congress set up a process for reviewing and publicly releasing the Federal Government’s records and other records relating to the Kennedy assassination, thereby allowing the American people full access to all pertinent information so that they can draw their own conclusions regarding this tragic event. Congress believed that this was preferable to launching yet another investigation, which by its very nature would probably be unable to definitely answer all the outstanding questions relating to the assassination.
[Footnote] The purpose of this law was to publicly release records relating to the Kennedy assassination at the earliest possible date. To accomplish this, the Assassination Records Review Board was set up to review and release the voluminous amounts of information in the Government’s possession. When this legislation was considered, nearly one million pages of records compiled by official investigations of the assassination had not been made available to the public, some 30 years after the tragedy. The FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA, the Warren Commission, the Rockefeller Commission, the Church Committee in the Senate, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations have all held assassination records, and records have also been in the possession of certain State and local authorities as well as private citizens. The 1992 law requires the Review Board to presume that documents relating to the assassination should be made public unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
[Footnote] 2The legislation that was signed into law was S. 3006, the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. S. 3006 was passed by the Senate on July 27, 1992, and was passed by the House on September 30, 1992.
The Review Board is an independent agency, whose membership consists of five citizens, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. These individuals are to be private citizens who are not presently employed by the Government.3
[Footnote] 3For more information regarding the Assassination Review Board’s responsibilities, see House Report 102-625, Part 1 (Committee on Government Operations) and Part 2 (Committee on the Judiciary), both accompanying H.J. Res 454, and Senate Report 102-328 (Committee on Governmental Affairs), accompanying S. 3006.
As a result of the Review Board’s efforts, over 14,000 documents have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration for inclusion in the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. That collection now totals approximately 3.7 million pages and is used extensively by researchers from all over the United States. The Review Board in April of 1997, voted to make public the Abraham Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. At the June 4, 1997, hearing on H.R. 1553 held by the National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Review Board Chairman Tunheim announced that the Board had acquired the personal papers of the late Clay Shaw, the New Orleans businessman who was charged with conspiracy to murder President Kennedy. Shaw was tried in 1969 as part of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination, and was acquitted.
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 originally provided a three-year timetable for the Assassination Records Review Board to complete its work. Unfortunately, there were lengthy delays in the appointment of Board members, and as a consequence the Review Board was scheduled to cease operations before it even began its substantive work. As a result, in 1994 Congress enacted Public Law 103-345, which `restarted the clock’ by extending the 1992 law’s termination date for one year, until September 30, 1996. The Review Board subsequently exercised its authority under the 1992 statute to continue operating for one additional year, until September 30, 1997. Because the review process proved to be more complex and time-consuming than anticipated, the President recognized the need for a one-year extension of the Review Board’s authorization and requested it in his fiscal year (FY) 1998 budget.
The Committee supports the Administration’s request for an additional year of authorization and $1.6 million in FY 1998 for the Assassinations Records Review Board, Chairman Burton and the Committee has made it clear that this will be the final extension of the Review Board’s authorization.
The Review Board has informed the Committee that it is confident that it will be able to finish its work and complete its final report if Congress will extend its life for one additional year, until September 30, 1998. The attached timetable outlines the Review Board’s schedule for completion of its task. (See Appendix)
The Committee directs the Review Board to report, by letter, to the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on the status of its progress. This information should be provided to the Committee on a monthly basis following enactment of H.R. 1553.
H.R. 1553 was introduced by Chairman Dan Burton on May 8, 1997. Ranking Minority Member Henry Waxman and Congressman Louis Stokes, who chaired the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, are original co-sponsors.
The Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice held a hearing on H.R. 1553 on June 4, 1997. The following witnesses testified before the Subcommittee: The Honorable Louis Stokes, U.S. House of Representatives; the Honorable John R. Tunheim, Chair, Assassination Records Review Board, Washington, D.C.; Mr. Steven D. Tilley, Chief of the Access and Freedom of Information Staff, Chief of the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; Mr. Max Holland, Author and Contributing Editor of Wilson Quarterly, Washington, D.C.; and Mr. Bruce Hitchcock, Government and U.S. History Teacher, Noblesville High School, Noblesville, Indiana.
Congressman Louis Stokes described his experiences as Chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (which investigated the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the assassination of President Kennedy) in the late 1970’s. He also discussed his sponsorship of the 1992 legislation which created the Assassination Records Review Board.
John Tunheim, the Chair of the Assassination Records Review Board, outlined the work of the Review Board to date and the Board’s plans for completing its review of the CIA’s and FBI’s documents. As noted in Section II earlier (Background and Need for the Legislation), the Review Board has acted to transfer more than 14,000 documents to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (JFK Collections) at the National Archives and Records Administration.
As an example, Mr. Tunheim’s testimony included `before and after’ copies of a pre-assassination FBI document concerning Lee Harvey Oswald. The original public version of the document had been heavily redacted; the Review Board subsequently reviewed and publicly released the entire document, thus quelling speculation by researchers about the documents’ contents and the reasons for the redactions.
Mr. Tunheim stated that the Review Board needs additional time to review the CIA’s `Sequestered Collections’ and the FBI’s assassination records, as well as to finish reviewing records from several Federal agencies, including the Secret Service, the National Security Agency, and Congressional committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Furthermore, one additional year will allow the Review Board sufficient time to continue searching for additional assassination records held by Federal agencies, local governments, and private citizens. Last year the Review Board adopted new guidelines that will help streamline the review process and ensure that the remaining assassination records can be reviewed and released in a timely manner.
In addition, Mr. Tunheim told the Subcommittee that he was confident that the Review Board could finish its work and issue its final report by the end of fiscal year (FY) 1998 on September 30, 1998. The Review Board has provided the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight with a time line, included in this report, outlining its plans for completing its review of all the remaining records by the end of FY 1998.
Steven Tilley, Chief of the JFK Collection at the National Archives, expressed his strong support for H.R. 1553. He explained how the JFK Collection has grown from approximately 450 cubic feet in December of 1992, to more than 1,600 cubic feet today. He described how the National Archives has made the documents in the JFK Collection available to the public on the Internet as well as at the National Archives’ College Park, Maryland, facility.
Max Holland and Bruce Hitchcock both strongly supported H.R. 1553. Mr. Holland is currently writing a book about the Warren Commission, and he has found the JFK Collection to be invaluable to his research efforts. He believed that publicly releasing the Kennedy assassination documents would show Americans that the Federal Government has nothing to hide, and to end the Review Board’s work before it was finished would raise new doubts in many Americans’ mind about the trustworthiness of the Government. Bruce Hitchcock has brought his high school students to Washington, D.C., to intern at the Review Board. These students have found this to be a fascinating educational experience. He spoke about the deep public interest in the Kennedy assassination and his belief that the Federal Government had a responsibility to release documents about the assassination to the public.
There was general agreement among the witnesses and Subcommittee members that the public release of the Kennedy assassination documents is important in reducing cynicism about the Government in general and restoring citizens’ trust in Government. Additionally, the Subcommittee members and witnesses discussed how the Kennedy assassination experience and the Review Board’s subsequent efforts to publicly release these documents could affect the Federal Government’s handling of other highly sensitive matters both now and in the future.
This section amends the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-526, as amended) to extend the authorization of the Assassination Records Review Board until September 30, 1998. Under current law, the Board’s authorization expires at the end of fiscal year (FY) 1997 on September 30, 1997. The provision in the 1992 law allowing the Review Board to extend its term for an additional year, which the Review Board exercised to continue its existence through the end of fiscal year FY 1997, is repealed.
Pursuant to rule XI, clause 2(l)(3)(A) of the Rules of the House of Representatives, under the authority of rule X, clause 2(b)(1) and clause 3(f), the results and findings from Committee oversight activities are incorporated in the bill and this report.
Pursuant to rule XI, clause 2(l)(3)(c) of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee was provided the following estimate of cost of H.R. 1553, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: The Congressional Budget Office has prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1553, a bill to amend the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 to extend the authorization of the Assassination Records Review Board until September 30, 1998.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are John R. Righter (for Federal costs), Theresa Gullo (for the State and local impact), and Matthew Eyles (for the private-sector impact).
Summary: H.R. 1553 would authorize an appropriation for 1998 for the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. Assuming appropriation of the authorized among, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 1553 would result in additional discretionary spending of $1.6 million in fiscal year 1998. The bill would not affect direct spending or receipts; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply.
Because the Assassination Records Review Board has the power to subpoena information from state and local governments and private persons, H.R. 1553 would impose an intergovernmental and private-sector mandate by extending the authorization of the board for a one-year period ending September 30, 1998. CBO estimates that the direct intergovernmental and private-sector costs of the mandate would be very small and well below the relevant thresholds established in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA).
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated budgetary impact of H.R. 1553 is shown in the following table. For the purposes of this estimate, CBO assumes that the amount authorized in H.R. 1553 will be appropriated by the start of fiscal year 1998 and that outlays will follow the historical spending patterns of the Review Board.
Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 1553 would impose an intergovernmental and private-sector mandate by extending the authorization of the Assassination Records Review Board for a one-year period ending September 30, 1998. The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-526), which created the Review Board, authorizes it to require state and local government entities and private persons to furnish testimony, records, and other relevant information under threat of a subpoena. Extending those powers for an additional year constitutes a federal mandate. Because the Review Board has rarely exercised its subpoena power, CBO estimates that the direct intergovernmental and private-sector costs of the mandate would be very small and well below the relevant thresholds established in UMRA.
Pursuant to rule XI, clause 2(l)(4) of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee finds that Congress is specifically granted the power to enact this law under Article I, Section 8, clause 1 under which Congress is granted the `Power To * * * provide for the * * * general Welfare of the United States[.]’
In compliance with clause 3 of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is proposed is shown in roman):
(o) TERMINATION AND WINDING UP- (1) The Review Board and the terms of its members shall terminate not later than [Struck out->][ September 30, 1996, except that the Review Board may, by majority vote, extend its term for an additional 1-year period if it has not completed its work within that period. ][<-Struck out] September 30, 1998.
(2) Upon its termination, the Review Board shall submit reports to the President and the Congress including a complete and accurate accounting of expenditures during its existence, and shall complete all other reporting requirements under this Act.
* * * *
(a) IN GENERAL- There are authorized to be appropriated [Struck out->][ such sums as are necessary to carry out this Act, to remain available until expended ][<-Struck out] to carry out the provisions of this Act $1,600,000 for fiscal year 1998.
(b) * *
The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to the term and conditions of employment or access to public services or accommodations within the meaning of section 102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act (PL 104-1).
Pursuant to rule XI, clause 2(l)(3)(B), and Section 308(a)(1) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee finds that no new budget authority, new spending authority, new credit authority or an increase or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures results from enactment of this legislation.
The Committee finds that the legislation does not impose any Federal mandates within the meaning of section 423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (PL 104-4).
[William Kelly email@example.com , with Dennis Bartholomew, special thanks to Esq., James Lesar, Esq., John Judge, and the late Phil Melanson. This is a work in progress. Your comments and contributions welcome. ]