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  • Fred Litwin

Redactions, Redactions, Redactions...

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

We saw last week a repeat of a play that we've grown accustomed to. NARA publishes JFK assassination records, and the JFK conspiracy crowd goes crazy. This time Fox News joined in the craze - Tucker Carlson's irresponsible reporting that an unnamed source told him that the CIA was behind the assassination, takes the cake.

Conspiracy theorists are convinced that important files are being withheld in full.

Jefferson Morley wants the CIA to release the George Joannides personnel file; James DiEugenio wants NARA to release an HSCA study on whether Oswald was a CIA agent, and Larry Schnapf was disappointed that the Walter Sheridan files, held by NBC, were not released.

While I certainly wish the CIA would release the Joannides personnel file, I have previously noted that it was examined by the ARRB who found the contents to be not relevant to the JFK assassination. Mr. DiEugenio is just plain wrong about the HSCA study - it was online at the Mary Ferrell website. And while I would love to see the Sheridan papers, they will just shed light on the Garrison investigation, and not the Kennedy assassination.

The truth is that most documents had already been released, only this time with fewer redactions. Very few documents are withheld in full, and they are mostly IRS documents which will most probably never be released.

There are two essential blogs on the JFK assassination documents and they belong to Tracy Parnell and Robert Reynolds. Parnell debunks Morley's allegations here.

Here is a link to Reynolds' excellent blog.

Please read his note on zombie redactions:

To understand my mystic art of prognostication, you have to know what a zombie redaction is. Imagine that you have one document where there is a name you want to withhold from public scrutiny: let’s say it’s “Jane Valachi”. And say you have about 14 copies of this same document that were originally in 14 different files. So you chop lots of little holes in the docs then put them in an archive for people to look at.

As time goes by, however, you come under pressure to fill some of those holes. Okay, you say, I’ll let a couple of the less important ones go. But you have a gazillion docs, each one with oodles of holes. What are the odds that you will be inconsistent in putting back some of the stuff that was in those holes? Pretty good, it turns out, and along with the stuff you don’t care about, you release Jane Valachi’s name.

Whoops! Now you have lots of holey docs here and an unholey doc there, which has sucked all the meaning and purpose out of the holey docs. The holey docs become meaningless shells, stalking you through the shelves and bins of your card catalogs. They are zombie redactions.

Okay, okay, you don’t like this mumbo jumbo. Fine. A zombie redaction is a redaction in copy X of a document which has already been released in copy Y of the same document, tucked away in some other file or folder or microfilm reel. There, are you happy?

Here is a good example - this document, the testimony of Robert T. Shaw, was released this week.

Note the large redaction on page 1-7:

In this earlier release (from 1993) of the same document, page 1-7 is not redacted:

Here is a specific Jefferson Morley complaint about a file in which the CIA has not released the redactions:

Here is one of the redactions:

Researcher Paul Hoch found an older file that does not contain that redaction:

The redaction is about the debriefing of Robert Edward Webster, another defector to the Soviet Union.

This redaction reminded Paul Hoch of a story involving Mark Lane. Most of the following is taken from my book, I was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. (Pages 195 - 198)

The document below is a cablegram from the Naval Attaché in the American Embassy in Moscow to the Department of the Navy:

Paul attended one of Mark Lane's standard presentations in August 1966, which included a discussion of this document. The redaction seemingly describes Oswald as a "former Marine and [redaction starts]" and Lane would say, "And what? Star of stage, screen and radio?" Paul noted that "this was one of his reliable laugh lines. The implication was that the redaction was hiding an Oswald intelligence connection."

Paul eventually found a document with a shorter redaction:

This made it clear that the redaction was about another person, and not an indication of Oswald's intelligence connection. He gave Lane a copy of the document and told him that there is an explanation for one point. A few days later, Lane was on the radio repeating his allegations about CD 917. In an email to me, Paul gave Lane the benefit of the doubt saying he might have been "too busy to absorb the new information."

However, in Lane's 1968 book, A Citizen's Dissent, he repeats the story: (Page 128)

Lane makes a good point that the Commission should have known what the redacted words were. But by the time A Citizen's Dissent was published, Lane knew that the redaction was not about Oswald, and he neglected to mention it in his book.

And, in fact, another copy of Warren Commission Document 1114 contains the complete wording of the redaction:

The redaction was about Robert Edward Webster, a former navy man who had defected to the Soviet Union. This Warren Commission document also proves that they had actually seen the full text. Either Jenner had not noticed it, or did not remember. I am not sure when Mark Lane stopped using CE 917 as part of his shtick.

All this goes to show that as bothersome these redactions are, they probably do not hide evidence of conspiracy.

I look forward to the day when there are no more redactions.

The truth of what happened on November 22 1963 lies in the millions of pages already released in full. The few remaining redactions will actually tell us little about what happened.

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