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JFK, Secrecy & the Unspeakable Forces of the National Security State

John F. Kennedy on September 2, 1963, being interviewed by Walter Cronkite. From the National Archive & in the public domain.

The establishment media, which has been commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination for the past week, will not take the time to appropriately present the dynamics in military and intelligence agencies leading up to when he was killed in Dallas.

Of the three major Sunday morning network television shows on November 17, “Meet the Press, “Face the Nation,” and “This Week,” only “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer broached the topic of whether JFK’s assassination was part of a conspiracy. It was mentioned to show that there is no evidence that the CIA, anti-Castro Cubans or President Lyndon B. Johnson had been involved. But no one bothered to mention that all the files on his assassination have not been released.

The Assassination Records Review Board has kept secret 1,100 records that, according to the Associated Press, the Board claimed contained “information about confidential sources or methods or have national security complications.” Each record is anywhere from one to twenty pages, and the files contain information on a deceased CIA agent, George Joannides, who was a “CIA case officer for the anti-Castro Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE).”

Fifty years later, the CIA is still fighting efforts to release documents that are decades old. Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter, has worked to get all the files released and believes the CIA must be guarding something big if it still will not release all the documents.

The AP’s story on secret files that remain concealed acknowledges that the CIA was not keen to cooperate with investigators. Joannides was actually brought in to help complete requests for documents by those on the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigating what happened. No one knew that the time that Joannides, a witness, was put in a position to edit material provided to the committee.

Now, I am far, far, far too young and have no memory of the assassination. I only know what I have read about JFK’s assassination and the events leading up to it. Yet, while my grandparents and parents (though very young) think of where they were, I cannot help but conclude that my generation should be reacting to this anniversary by taking interest in what led up to the murder and why, after fifty years, anything related to the horrible event would be permitted to remain secret for any reason.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., JFK’s nephew, assessed his uncle’s attempts to confront the national security state for Rolling Stone. His recounting of forces he bumped up against during his presidency concludes with the following:

…JFK’s great concerns seem more relevant than ever: the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the notion that empire is inconsistent with a republic and that corporate domination of our democracy at home is the partner of imperial policies abroad. He understood the perils to our Constitution from a national-security state and mistrusted zealots and ideologues. He thought other nations ought to fight their own civil wars and choose their own governments and not ask the U.S. to do it for them. Yet the world he imagined and fought for has receded so far below the horizon that it’s no longer even part of the permissible narrative inside the Beltway or in the mainstream press. Critics who endeavor to debate the survival of American democracy within the national-security state risk marginalization as crackpots and kooks. His greatest, most heroic aspirations for a peaceful, demilitarized foreign policy are the forbidden­ debates of the modern political era.

Where RFK Jr.’s analysis excels is its omission of any hypotheses about what JFK might have done if he was not assassinated. We can never know, and there is plenty to contemplate without getting into what impact he could have had.

Peter Kornbluh examined one of Kennedy’s final acts: reaching out to Cuba.

The CIA was opposed to dialogue with Cuba that might have cooled tensions. The CIA controlled Cuba policy, but Kennedy wanted to reach out to Fidel Castro and consider possibilities for ending hostilities.

“Fifty years later, the potential Kennedy envisioned for co-existence between the Cuban revolution and the U.S. has yet to be realized. As part of commemorating his legacy, his vision for a détente in the Caribbean must be remembered, reconsidered, and revisited,” Kornbluh suggested.

Finally, one of the best reflections on JFK’s assassination is contained in the book by James W. Douglass called JFK and the Unspeakable. It connects his assassination and the “unspeakable” forces likely behind it to the “unspeakable” forces that still work in the shadows today.

…John Kennedy’s story is our story, although a titanic effort has been made to keep it from us. That story, like the struggle it embodies, is as current today as it was in 1963. The theology of redemptive violence still reigns. The Cold War has been followed by its twin, the War on Terror. We are engaged in another apocalyptic struggle against an enemy seen as absolute evil. Terrorism has replaced Communism as the enemy. We are told we can be safe only through the threat of escalating violence. Once again, anything goes in a fight against evil: preemptive attacks, torture, undermining governments, assassinations, whatever it takes to gain the end of victory over an enemy portrayed as irredeemably evil. Yet the redemptive means John Kennedy turned to, in a similar struggle, was dialogue with the enemy. When the enemy is seen as human, everything changes…

Douglass makes the case in his book that Kennedy was “murdered by a power we cannot easily describe. Its unspeakable reality can be traced, suggested, recognized, and pondered.” He points the finger at our own government for being to blame for Kennedy’s assassination while at the same time bringing to light the turning away from nuclear war to peace (which RFK Jr’s Rolling Stone article actually outlines).

Despite what mainstream pundits say about Americans’ surviving interest in conspiracy theories around Kennedy’s assassination, it is unfair to marginalize those who are willing to interrogate the past and ask what that past means for the future. There is good reason to push for transparency on a chapter in American history that still remains partly clouded in darkness.

While JFK was simultaneously pleading with newspapers to self-censor information that the government thought Communist “enemies” could use against the United States, on April 27, 1961, he did say the following about secrecy in an address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment…

The deep state, with the help of docile culture within the press, remains vigilant in guarding secret history it does not want the public to know, perhaps, because such history would explode myths it has relied upon to increase its stranglehold over government. Certainly, if officials within these agencies were found to have played a role in the assassination of an American president, it would likely leave Americans with a profound sense of anger and fear.

Today, as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden compels us through his disclosures to reconcile with the vast power granted to the NSA, all of our national security state should be up for debate. Its history and current concealed history around torture, rendition and targeted assassinations, which it fights in court to protect, should be thoroughly assessed. Page after page after page of the dark seedy exploits and the evil that men do when their identities are likely to never become known ought to be taken seriously. And, we should heed JFK’s words on the dangers of excessive secrecy, which has such an incredible capacity to shield corruption.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

JFK, Secrecy & the Unspeakable Forces of the National Security State

John F. Kennedy on September 2, 1963, being interviewed by Walter Cronkite.

The establishment media, which has been commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination for the past week, will not take the time to appropriately present the dynamics in military and intelligence agencies leading up to when he was killed in Dallas.

Of the three major Sunday morning network television shows on November 17, “Meet the Press, “Face the Nation,” and “This Week,” only “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer broached the topic of whether JFK’s assassination was part of a conspiracy. It was mentioned to show that there is no evidence that the CIA, anti-Castro Cubans or President Lyndon B. Johnson had been involved. But no one bothered to mention that all the files on his assassination have not been released.

The Assassination Records Review Board has kept secret 1,100 records that, according to the Associated Press, the Board claimed contained “information about confidential sources or methods or have national security complications.” Each record is anywhere from one to twenty pages, and the files contain information on a deceased CIA agent, George Joannides, who was a “CIA case officer for the anti-Castro Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE).”

Fifty years later, the CIA is still fighting efforts to release documents that are decades old. Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter, has worked to get all the files released and believes the CIA must be guarding something big if it still will not release all the documents.

The AP’s story on secret files that remain concealed acknowledges that the CIA was not keen to cooperate with investigators. Joannides was actually brought in to help complete requests for documents by those on the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigating what happened. No one knew that the time that Joannides, a witness, was put in a position to edit material provided to the committee.

Now, I am far, far, far too young and have no memory of the assassination. I only know what I have read about JFK’s assassination and the events leading up to it. Yet, while my grandparents and parents (though very young) think of where they were, I cannot help but conclude that my generation should be reacting to this anniversary by taking interest in what led up to the murder and why, after fifty years, anything related to the horrible event would be permitted to remain secret for any reason.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., JFK’s nephew, assessed his uncle’s attempts to confront the national security state for Rolling Stone. His recounting of forces he bumped up against during his presidency concludes with the following: (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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