PRESS RELEASE

NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FRUSTRATES PUBLIC ACCESS TO JFK ASSASSINATION RECORDS, THREATENS DESTRUCTION OF FILES

Washington, August 7 - New Orleans District Attorney Harry F. Connick has frustrated public release of key documents relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Testifying before the Assassination Records Review Board on June 28, Connick discussed the release of former D.A. Jim Garrison's investigative files that contained, ". . . things that would be of great interest to the American public and the world." Connick promised to transfer these records to the Review Board, and praised their efforts to release files that would "clarify some of the clouded areas of the past and make sense out of what happened." Nearly a month and a half later, D.A. Connick has not released the files.

Instead, Connick has granted exclusive, private access to Garrison's investigative records to Gerald Posner, author of a book supporting the Warren Commission conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. In the New York Times Magazine of August 6, Posner has attacked the credibility and integrity of Jim Garrison's investigation, allegedly based on these records. According to Jim DiEugenio, author of Destiny Betrayed, a book on the Garrison investigation, "In this short piece, Posner spends seven paragraphs dealing with the contents of these new files. Of these, only three deal with information not already published. Yet, a recently released House Select Committee on Assassinations index to these records is sixteen pages long. Based on this skeleton guide, much of the material ignored by Posner is new, and seems tosupport some of Garrison's charges."

Connick also testified to the Review Board that missing records were stolen by members of Garrison's staff before he came into office in 1974. However, according to a sworn affidavit from a former member of his staff, "nothing could be farther from the truth . . . I was one of two or three individuals ordered [by Connick] to destroy those files." Connick reportedly told the staff member to "burn that son of a bitch, now," speaking about sealed, secret grand jury files from the trial of Clay Shaw. D.A. Jim Garrison accused Shaw of conspiracy to assassinate the president. In a recent interview with local news reporter Richard Angelico, of WDSU-TV, Connick threatened that he would burn additional grand jury records still in his possession.

Transcripts of more than 40 witnesses at the original Clay Shaw grand jury trial were presented, with a signed affidavit, to WDSU-TV reporter Richard Angelico, on the agreement that they would be forwarded to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Connick has since attempted to subpoena the Review Board for return of the files, has made clear that he opposes their release, and has threatened Angelico and a suspected former employee with charges of "theft." Angelico copied the records, and apparently sent them to Hugh Aynesworth, another Warren Commission apologist. Aynesworth wrote a piece in the Washington Times on July 30, attacking Garrison, allegedly based on documents only he has access to.

The 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act requires that the ARRB locate and release"assassination records" concerning the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The law covers not only federal agency records, but state and local police, sealed court and investigative files, and documents held by government contract corporations, individuals and foreign governments. John Judge of the Coalition on Political Assassinations said, "The purpose of public release of the records identified by the ARRB is to allow independent review by scholars, researchers and the public. The actions of Gerald Posner, Hugh Aynesworth and Norman Mailer violate the public's right to know, and prevent any objective conclusions from being reached, since neither they nor the public has seen the whole record."

The Assassination Records Review Board is also currently reviewing thousands of CIA, FBI and other government files transferred to the National Archives, but marked for "postponed release" by the agencies involved. To date, the Board has voted consistently for full release. Board decisions are open to appeal, and a 30-day review by President Clinton who has the power to prevent release. These files contain significant information relating to Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and their surveillance by and interactions with U.S. intelligence agencies before the assassination.

The Coalition on Political Assassinations, through a member organization, the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington, D.C. has filed a Freedom of Information request under both federal and Louisiana law for the Garrison files and grand jury records, in part to prevent any further destruction by D.A. Connick. Dan Alcorn, General Counsel of the Coalition, stated, "All parties concerned should recognize the legal requirement of full disclosure under the JFK Records Act, and immediately release all these records to full public review. The seal of secrecy on the grand jury records has clearly already been broken. In addition, the ARRB should prohibit private access or physical possession of files defined as "assassination records" until they make the files fully public."

The Coalition on Political Assassinations is a national, public-interest nonprofit [organization] led by professionals dedicated to full government disclosure on the murders of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Coalition has called for a national conference on newly released files and new analysis in these cases from October 20-22 in Washington, D.C.


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