The ARRB's May 14th, 1998 Open Meeting

Copyright © 1998 by Joseph Backes


Dr. Jeremy Gunn- "We need to approve the minutes of the last open meeting.

Judge Tunehim- "Pass these around. Hmm, it was quite a while ago."

Jeremy Gunn- (comically) "Some things never change."

Judge Tunehim- "Are we ready over here?'

Dr. Henry Graff- "Do we pass these around?"

Judge Tunheim- "I will call to order this open meeting of the Assassination Records Review Board and extend a welcome to everyone who is here with us today. All five members of the Board are present so there is a quarom for the purpose of doing our business. Our first item on the agenda is to approve the minutes from the last open Board meeting which was April 24 of 1997 in Washington. We have a draft that has been submitted. Are there any suggested changes or is there a motion to approve?"

Dr. William Joyce - "I move to approve."

Dr. Henry Graff - "Second."

Judge Tunheim - "It's been moved for approval the minutes of this meeting. All in favor say aye."

All - "Aye."

Judge Tunheim - "Opposed?

(no response)

Judge Tunheim - "Carried, five to zero. Now, the purpose of our meeting today is to begin our discussion as to what should be in the final report that the Review Board intends to release this fall upon the completion of our activities. I should note for the record that we are funded and authorized through the end of this federal fiscal year which will end on September 30, 1998. It has been our considered opinion that that should be the end of our temporary existence as a Review Board, much of the work having been done and a lot of the work remaining to be done but in the view of the Board sufficient time to finish the work by that date. We do, by virtue of the statute owe a final report to the President, and to the Congress, and yes, beyond that to the American public. We do intend to write a detailed final report which reviews the work that we have done and we thought that we should begin talking about what should go in that report which is a proper subject for a public meeting. Perhaps, I could call on Dr. Gunn first to give us a little overview of the staff thinking that has gone on up until this time on preparation for the final report."

Jeremy Gunn - "Mr. Chairman, and members of the Board there are four and a half months left until we need to complete all of our work. That is a daunting task there are still thousands of records that need to be reviewed from the agencies, and as the chairman mentioned there is also a final report that needs to be written. Staff is working hard, diligently, with great intelligence, and some enthusiasm to try and get this done and we are all committed to doing that as best we can.

"With regard to the final report there are two principle things that the staff has been involved in thus far. One of them is the creation of the outline and dealing with the topics, a copy of that outline has been previously distributed to members of the Board, various staff members have responsibilities for drafting the various chapters, I'll come back to that in a moment. The second thing is the staff helped organized with the direction of the Review Board an experts conference that was held a few weeks ago. That experts conference which was in a, well, it was not a meeting of the Review Board, it was an open setting, a tape recording was made of that meeting, various people made recommendations to the Board about the types of things that can be included. It was our hope that the conversation itself would help stimulate thoughts of the Board and help the Board formulate recommendations that it would have.

"As I have told the Board before, in my personal judgement, several of the chapters of the report can be written reasonably well by staff members, and the plan that we have as of now is to have drafts given to me, I will then work on editing the drafts, and a copy will be sent to members of the Board to make their edits, changes, even throw it out, the report of course is the Board's report.

"The one thing that has been the most difficult for the staff to conceptualize is what is now, at least a place holder, is what we refer to as Chapter 7 which is, contains the lessons learned by the Board, the Board's recommendations either for legislation, recommendations on how records should be classified or declassified, or whatever recommendations the Board might have, and I assume there is also the option for the Board to make no recommendations whatsoever if that were its choice. It is of course difficult for the staff to know what is in Board member's minds about that although I think staff is quite competent and capable of drafting much of the report, that is an area where we either need to get some clear guidance from the Board or it's an area where the Board may wish to divide among itself sections of the chapter for drafting and circulating among members of the Board. I believe that for discussions about the kinds of recommendations that would be made in the final report that those would be appropriate topics to have at an open meeting and I would urge the Board to consider holding any discussions that it has upon those issues at an open meeting to the extent that the Board wishes to circulate draft copies among themselves that is another way to handle this. Because there is not a great deal of time left and I perceive that this Chapter 7 is an important part of what the Board's legacy will be that it is important that the Board discuss, deliberate and reach some consensus on how it would like to handle that, it's of course at the Board's disposition whether that would be decided today on how you would handle it or to set a time table for handling it, or decide whatever it is that you want to do, including putting it back in the staff's responsibility but I would throw that sort of issue out for you to deliberate on and discuss."

Judge Tunheim - "Well I thought we should approach it as this is the start of the process of determining what should go in that chapter. It is always helpful to have a discussion and since we are not able to deliberate on this matter outside of the confines of a public meeting we do probably need to have several of them to go through all of this to do the necessary deliberations. Other thoughts, comments?"

Dr. William Joyce - "It would be helpful to have a review of the first six chapters just to get a-"

Jeremy Gunn - "Sure, all of these should be understood as place holders, this is an organization that is subject to change but this is where we are right now. The first section would be an introduction which I right now am the principal drafts person on, the first chapter, again all of this is tentative, I need to stress that, is tentatively titled "The Problem: Secrecy, and the Assassination of President Kennedy", and what that chapter would do would be to discuss the issues pertaining to secrecy surrounding the assassination of the president and the government's investigations into the assassination, so there would be a short review of The Warren Commission, The House Select Committee on Assassinations, The Church Committee and other committees. The problem at least that I perceive with those committees is that frequently they would make conclusions in their reports and then the records upon which they base their conclusions were classified and not subject to be released until the future and so part of the problem is almost that with each investigation of the assassination more questions, and more secrecy was created rather than the opposite which should have been the case, so setting up chapter one as what I am identifying as "The Problem" chapter two is "The Solution" which was The JFK Act. And with the JFK Act the goal was to take certainly the records from those prior investigations and open those records up. Chapter two of the final report would include as it currently stands a section by section analysis of the statute to explain how it worked and perhaps to suggest to some extent where there might have been problems where things might have been improved a little bit that may or may not overlap with chapter 7 depending on how that would go but chapter two is "The Solution" to chapter one which is "The Problem".

"Chapter three would be a discussion of the Assassination Records Review Board and it's staff. So, that would be about the members of the Board, their backgrounds and it would be a discussion of what the Board's activities were, a sort of recounting of the open meetings, the people who testified before the Board, and discussion of other Board activities.

"Eileen Sullivan, who is in the room now, is the person who will be the principal draftsperson for chapter three.

"Chapter four is one of the chapters that I think will be the most important, perhaps one or two or three of the most important chapters of the report and that will be the standards for release of information under the JFK Act. That is being drafted initially by Laura Denk and Bob Skwirot that is the chapter that is certainly the furthest along right now. Laura and Bob with the, sort of the memory of Phil Goerick have been responsible for doing that chapter and I think that that will explain to people generally the kinds of issues that the Board had to deal with and how the Board handled records of declassification.

"Chapter five will be the chapter on federal agency compliance with the JFK Act. That Chapter is being drafted now by Ron Haron who is handling our compliance program, basically the Board knows each of the federal agencies that posses assassination records has been asked to sign a statement under oath saying that they have searched thoroughly through their files and based upon the best information that they have they have identified all assassination records and they have been processed and included in the JFK Collection. That is an area where I personally perceive it is a very important part of the Board's mission to say that due diligence was undertaken to go to the agencies and make sure that the records were found, that the hard questions were asked of the agencies and that the agencies have performed their work. That is an enormously difficult and complicated task which Ron has been handling very well, but chapter five will explain what that is and talk about agency compliance.

"Chapter six will pertain to the pursuit of additional records and information. That's one of the more complicated chapters in that there are so many different issues related to the assassination that come up. Michelle Combs, Eileen Sullivan, and Doug Horne are all working on that chapter, but this will be a lot of the leads that the Board has pursued, and a lot of the records that we have been able to identify as a result of the leads that we have pursued."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Jeremy, could I just interrupt you here?

Jeremy Gunn - "Sure."

Dr. Kermit Hall- "Is this the place then you contemplate dealing with the foreign records?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes, that would be one of them, yes, that's it. I should also say that one of the questions that we have right now is whether within chapter six there will be a statement or a lengthy piece on medical evidence? The staff is now preparing a report on the medical evidence, and we would like to get that released as soon as we can, we keep having delays based upon the other sorts of work that we have to do that is pressing business but we are trying to get that done. That may or may not be included within chapter six.

"Part of what we want to do that we look upon as being different from the way that the House Select Committee and the Warren Commission handled the records is that we want to be releasing all of these records as we go out of business rather than classifying them as we go out of business, so the depositions, for example, whether of Anne Goodpasture, or of James Hosty, or of various people who were involved in the autopsy of President Kennedy, all of those records would be released, certainly by the time that the Board goes out of business, and as soon as we can do it consistent with our many other responsibilities."

Dr. William Joyce - "Excuse me for one second, so then the contents of that chapter would be the non legislative-executive records?"

Jeremy Gunn - "That is the easiest, simply way of defining one versus the other, but it won't always be true. It is more than just records in the private domain, we have been given leads on particular topics and we will often go to federal agencies and pursue that. So, if there is some person who has been alleged to have been a CIA officer who was present in Dallas on November of 1963 and we have pursued that, then we will show what we have done to pursue that. Sort of leading that, that of course involves agency records but it would be leads that we pursued and what we have been able to find, or as is often the case, not have been able to find based upon what we tried to do, but we will explain the leads that we tried to pursue."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "Explain to the reading public that we did go after those things, -"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes-

Dr. Anna Nelson - "but didn't find, or found very little of them-"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes, yes. And chapter seven is the one that I have, that we have started out talking about. And also I would like to be as part of this, the final report, appendices, some appendices that I think will help people who are interested in this topic be able to examine our own files when they are sent to the archives so that we will have for example an appendix that will have a complete identification of all of the depositions and interviews that have been taken so it will be a complete list of those. We will identify at least certainly the major and as many records that were donated to either the Review Board or the National Archives. So, for example David Lifton has agreed to provide some materials to the Board, we will list those kinds of materials, and I use Mr. Lifton as just one of many examples of people who have contributed to the Board's work. Well, that is the basic outline that I am perceiving now on the report."

Judge Tunheim - "In the appendix area of the report is there going to be anymore of a listing of either summaries of records released, I mean where is the report of all of the records released going to be is that intended to be part of the appendix, or not?"

Jeremy Gunn - "That would be part of the appendix as well. One of the things that is difficult for us is to have an appendix that is one of manageable size, and two meaningful, you know, a huge one that's meaningful, or a small one that's-"

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Actually, the reverse of that is almost as interesting if not more and that is the documents that have been postponed."

Jeremy Gunn - "There will be a summary of all of the records that we have had, the number of records that will have postponements in it, so there will be a description of all of that. It is going to have to be in it, cause you are talking about tens of thousands of records, it is going to have to be in summary form, but there will be a summary."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "With an explanation, I mean in many instances those documents have this much [gesturing, holding two fingers, thumb and fore finger, about half an inch apart] postponements. It is a misleading number."

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes, and part of that in terms of the way it will be developed thematically will be in the chapter on the work of the Review Board, so that will be within chapter three. So, that will be the closed description."

Dr. Henry Graff - "Will there be a description of why postponements are there? Necessary?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Jeremy, if I went to this report and wanted to take from it lessons learned, where would I turn to?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Chapter seven."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "So, you see chapter seven as being not just recommendations but also some analysis or some explanation of what did and did not work?"

Jeremy Gunn - "The tentative title for chapter seven right now, again all of these are just place holders but it's "Lessons learned and recommendations made" though I would also see some of these issues coming throughout the entire report particularly in chapter two which is the section by section analysis of the Act, and then chapter three on the work of the Review Board itself."

Dr. Henry Graff - "Will the report contain a preface at the beginning?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes, executive summary."

Dr. William Joyce - "So, the real question in front of us is the terms of the content of the subjects chapter, it is that we will have some sort of statement of reflection on meaning the work, presumably, some kind of ...I don't want to say didactic particularly but reflective certainly on the wrok that was done, and the question really falls or devolves on whether we wish to make specific recommendations that might bear either on policy with regard to declassifying federal records, or recommendations for legislation that we may wish to make, or any kind of modification of records now being released."

Jeremy Gunn - "It's wide open, and just to give some examples of the kinds of things that would be possible to include or not include would be recommending changes in FOIA laws, it would be recommending or not recommending that there be another Board created to deal with issues in the future, there may be certain pockets of records that we have come across that may be of particular interest to the public, not Kennedy assassination related, but that may be of interest, for example Church Committee records, now we have a good idea of where those are and the magnitude of those, a good thing that the Board could recommend be released. The Board might recommend new legislation. The Board may want to opinion on what is now S. 712."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Maybe one of the ways into this issue..., what my thinking is is that it might be worth asking each of us to come up with our own list of what would be appropriate on that agenda, then ask the staff to put the bigger agenda together, then make it a kind of working document at which we could in the next public session take homage of these and kind of work our way through them. I do think though that the questions from each of us relative to two things, one is the staff sense of what some of these recommendations would mean and to that extent have you present or other members of the staff who could respond, it might be helpful in that meeting, if so I would encourage it, we would need a bigger space and we would have to round people up the other is we are still swimming in this ocean of confidentiality and some of the things that I think probably you could address do have some aspects to them and it seems to me aren't really acceptable to me to complete public discussion, and do you have any thoughts on that second point?"

Dr. Jeremy Gunn - "To the extent that there is information that needs to be discussed which is properly classifiable that should certainly be done in a closed meeting and we can do that too. It would be my assumption that for the most part the kinds of things that would be considered by the Board for recommendations in the final report would not be classifiable but there could be dimensions to it-"

Dr. Kermit Hall - "-it's just that it's getting from the point of ignition to the point of settlement and inbetween there might be some byways, but I recommend that as a course of action, it struck me as a kind of agenda of issues that each of us feels needs to be put on the table, the lessons learned categories, as well as the recommendations category, and then ask the staff to put it together, to put it out and we can wrestle with it in an extended session."

Jeremy Gunn - "That certainly makes sense to me, and so just making that one step slightly more formal is that if one week prior to the next meeting if the Board members could send us a list of any recommendations or ideas that they would have for recommendations, it doesn't need to be a final decision but just things that you think should be considered we can try and reformulate them and try and put them on one or two or three sheets."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "It would be helpful as well in doing that if it might be possible to categorize them, issues that we are going to deal with, questions of handling materials as opposed to the broader principle questions, matters such as the independence of the Board, and I think one of the real tricks for us is to in sifting through this to make sure that we sift out, or keep in our net the big pieces that really count and not end with recommendations or lessons learned that are really trivialities...I think we have a nice discussion on what kind of legacy we can appropriately leave...All I am asking for is... so that we have some kind of coherent discussion."

Dr. Anna Nelson (tried to interject) "Jeremy,"

Jeremy Gunn - "If I can just make one slight response to that, (to Dr. Nelson) I'm sorry, it may well be that for the principle issues those could be appropriate for chapter seven a lot of the smaller things that we thing are appropriate for handling, things that are not really momentous, the republic doesn't hang on them, those could be included in the other chapter."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "I was going to ask, we have been at this awhile, so I was going to ask, something earlier about, or one of the earlier conferences, that was largely on what we should go looking for, but given that, so I suppose we ought to have available to us as we think about this any of the other experts advice we have gotten, we have our public meeting hearings, so we have all of that, but we should pay attention to that, as well as our last one which was very helpful."

Jeremy Gunn - "Something that could be done, if you want, and there was some thought about doing this in relation to the last expert's meeting, would be to make an announcement in the Federal Register, or, I'm not sure if that's necessary, but an announcement to the public that the Board would like to get recommendations from the public that are specific to the Board's mission and ask that they be filled."

Judge Tunheim - "Written recommendations?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Written recommendations."

Dr. William Joyce - "Well, we can't do that before our next meeting."

Jeremy Gunn - "I'm not sure what the date of the next meeting."

Dr. William Joyce - "I think it's June 4th-"

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Well, we can incorporate it into the next meeting-"

Dr. William Joyce - "June 4th-"

Jeremy Gunn - "We can do it, we can do it right away and I am not sure when the recommendations will come in."

Dr. Henry Graff - " What about June 21st?, No, wait, wait, no-"

Dr. Anna Nelson - "No, no. Probably-"

Dr. William Joyce - "June 4th, I think it is."

Jeremy Gunn - "There is one tentatively scheduled for June 4th, and the next one after that is June 17th."

Dr. William Joyce - "So maybe for the 17th, I don't think there will be time for the June 4th."

Jeremy Gunn - "To get comments from the public there wouldn't be time, we can still do the other part."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "I think some of the people that we have had, especially at the last experts meeting, may in fact give us some written views to have, it's a good idea."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "As I said the authorship issue, Jeremy, it seems to me that what we are going to have here is a little conversation, no sense in worrying about authorship as we are going to have this in this forum, the lessons learned is less pressing, we should make sure that we have the issues before us then we can work out who wants to do what to take care of chapter seven. I think the broad outline...and one of the things I like about it is the historical consciousness of it so there are some footprints to follow."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "I think one of the things we have to make a decision on is to concentrate on lessons learned and the recommendations, lessons learned can lead to recommendations...how much we recommend is just something we'll have to decide eventually."

Judge Tunheim - "I think in many respects they are the same."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "They are, I said lessons learned lead to..."

Judge Tunheim - "And just to give one as an example and that is one lesson that I think perhaps we would all agree that it's important about an effort like this is ensuring the independence of the entity that is making the decisions on declassifications, as was the case here, and that is both a lesson learned and a recommendation. You get positive results and openness in records when you have independence and the ability to demand answers to the questions why, why keep them closed or postponed. So that's an example of something which I think in my view will be a hallmark of this chapter but it falls into both categories."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Sure, I know what you are saying."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "And I was judging that we may not recommend structure."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "I think it is an interesting set of questions about how we would go about the disposition of the bigger issue of secrecy in government and whether that is really within our province to deal with."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "That was basically my..."

Judge Tunheim - "Other thoughts we should talk about today? I think this has been a good path here. I am very comfortable having these discussions here in public meetings and I think that's the way we should do it but having some pre-work done in terms of sending ideas out from each of us is probably a good idea, to have something to focus on."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "One of the appendices Jeremy is formatting an index of the records, an index is so critical to us, by this did you mean that we would not use the the list that is kind of available?"

Jeremy Gunn - "What we would like to do, what we would like to have is an index to the Review Board records so that a person who wants to see what we were working on, or something, what are administrative files are, will have a complete index, that is essentially created from the beginning so before we even existed we had the outline of that-"

Dr. Anna nelson - "I know"

Jeremy Gunn - "and what I would like to do is attach that to make our records themselves easily accessible."

Dr. Anna nelson - "So it's our records?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Yes."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "As kind of a fall into that one of the other pieces that might be helpful Jeremy is to take particular but not exclusive counsel from Steve Tilley, that is I would very much appreciate by the time that we come to deal with this issue that we heard from Steve Tilley about where his thinking is since he is the keeper of the records, if there is anything we can use that would be useful."

Jeremy Gunn - "I will invite him then to come to the next meeting and be prepared to talk about that."

Dr. William Joyce - "I might have missed it but I gather that there will be, you mentioned public meetings, will there be a listing of all of our meetings?"

Jeremy Gunn - "There will be a listing of all of the meetings that the Board has had.

Dr. William Joyce - "And in terms of, will there be, you mentioned, how will we identify documents that have been released or postponed, will we do that by document number?"

Jeremy Gunn - "One of the problems is the numbers are astronomical, and the information you would have in the numbers is not in and of itself useful."

Dr. William Joyce - "Okay."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Well, you know, this is just kind of a quick thought, which also my colleague has thought here, one of the things I would hope for is that this report will be read."

Dr. Henry Graff - "How long do you envision this report being, give me a second Kermit, just to put that in."

Jeremy Gunn - "I don't know, I will use the number 200, 200 to 300."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Well, executive summaries are wonderful things but I also know just reading through the National Research Council's report on doctoral research education in the United States, all 882 pages of it."

Jeremy Gunn - (somewaht sarcastically about the report) "Very interesting."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Done in 3 point type, just to make it interesting..."

Jeremy Gunn - "but no illustrations."

(laughter)

Dr. Kermit Hall - "My only point is that we should exercise some care in loading up this report with a lot of appendices, it may well be that we want a second volume that would chronicle the kinds of things that Bill is talking about-"

Dr. Ann Nelson - "Like the Moynihan Report did."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "That may be a way to proceeding, a volume one, and a volume two, and the epilogues."

Jeremy Gunn - "One of the other considerations of this is cost, to have a second volume that would be generally of less interest to people, important but ah, one of the options that we have is certainly having some detailed explanations of records that would not be published by the Board but available either on the internet or at the Archives, so people would have an accessible but not to load down a published work with a lot of stuff..."

Dr. William Joyce - "Well, that is what I was going to say, that maybe there could be a reference to the fact that the Board's records are in the Archives. It seems to me that some sort of database that would be accessible that points to where it could be found."

Jeremy Gunn - "Steve Tilley is interested in putting this on the Internet, and most of this can, with the exception of the index to our own filing system the appendices that are included now in the draft are all a page or two so those are short I don't worry about those as much, I mean they are interesting valuable and short. Ones where you start doing summaries of records, then you just change the whole dynamic."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "The cheaper way to do that, above and beyond the internet, so you can go to the Archives and do it, might be microfiche. It is what other groups have done."

Dr. Henry Graff - "It is a little old fashioned, isn't it?"

Dr. Anna Nelson - "It is a little old fashioned but remember there are people out there who don't have-"

Jeremy Gunn - "Who are old fashioned."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "No, that don't have, there are a lot of small colleges out there that don't have access, who don't have free access [to the internet] and people might buy it."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Supported by the American Optometrist Association, to sell more glasses.

Judge Tunheim - "Well, that sounds like a good approach, I think. If everyone is agreeable here, I think this is the path we will take and have this set up for a public meeting probably later in June? the second meeting?"

Jeremy Gunn - "The second, the second meeting in June."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "Listen, this pretty much parallels the time train that you so nicely set out for us, this is all doable in your estimation?"

Jeremy Gunn - "if the schedules are all met it is very doable."

Dr. Kermit hall - "Colleagues doing well here? Pushing along? Eileen and company? You feel confident?"

Jeremy Gunn - "They come to work most days, yes. No, they are doing a splendid job and it is going to be difficult in the last four months because we are going to be bombarded by a lot of things, but most are holding up."

Dr. Anna Nelson - "But we don't know how many more records are going to come in, and that's very time consuming, a big problem."

Jeremy Gunn - "One of the, I guess, reasonably good signs that we have had on this, one of the uncertainties we have had are the CIA records and the volume of those, and we now know what the scope of the records are, we do not necessarily know how many are duplicates, if it's a duplicate that's easy for us to deal with, or if the CIA is going to release them in full, and the latest readings we have had in the last three or four weeks giving the number of duplicates or releases in full is going up, significantly, and that for the purposes of processing information will take less time, but time will tell."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "May I quote you on that?"

Jeremy Gunn - "Whenever I give a cliche, you may quote me on it."

Dr. Anna Nelson "You might be able to find a new treasure trove of information anyway-"

Judge Tunheim - "Anything else for this afternoon? Any other new business to raise today, Jeremy? No? Is there a motion to adjourn?"

Dr. Henry Graff - "So moved."

Judge Tunheim - "Is there a second?"

Dr. Anna Nelson - "I'll second."

Dr. Kermit Hall - "I'll second."

Judge Tunheim - "It has been moved and seconded to adjourn this open public Board meeting, all in favor say aye."

All - "Aye"

Judge Tunheim - "Opposed? Carried five to zero. Thank you all."


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