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Archivist Reviews JFK Assassination Records

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 07:59 AM

Martha Wagner Murphy, head of the Special Access and Freedom of Information Act staff at the National Archives in College Park, Md., discussed recently the collection of artifacts related to the JFK assassination there and the ensuing Warren Commission. The event was part of C-SPAN's series American History TV programs on American artifacts.

As discussed in earlier articles, this writer studied in the milieu of the drafting of the Warren Commission report and like perhaps millions of Americans has visited the assassination site, heard many of the Johnson tapes, attended the meeting at which the Dump Johnson movement was formed, coincidentally not far from the archives, and has never believed the conclusions of the Warren Commission. With polls showing that most Americans share this skepticism, if not outright cynicism, this article will help keep readers abreast of developments in the ongoing controversy more than a half century after the event.

Murphy gave a tour of the collection, which she said was created pursuant to a statute enacted in 1992. She then presented a short history. There have been about four investigations of the assassination, including the Warren Commission, the Church Committee, the Pike Committee and the House Special Committee on Assassinations. In 1991 there was the Oliver Stone movie, and at the end he pointedly called for the assembly of all the relevant records.

According to Murphy the collection contains approximately 5 million textual pages, as well as records on film, audio and other media. For some of the documents it is necessary to visit the Archives, but there is a searchable database on its website, and many of the textual documents can be viewed online.

Murphy displayed several items that had been requested in advance by C-SPAN. The first was a bus transfer found in the pocket of Lee Harvey Oswald after he was arrested for the assassination, dated Nov. 22, 1963. She explained that the transfer was obtained by the Dallas police and given to the FBI, later becoming an exhibit of the Warren Commission.

Next to be shown was Oswald's address book, which contains a map, addresses and telephone numbers. The final item displayed was a map of Mexico City, where Oswald traveled, with several points of interest circled.

In response to the interviewer's question as to how records were declassified, Murphy explained that an Assassination Records Review Board had been created to manage that process and had the power to overrule any agency, subject to appeal only to the president. At the final press conference in 1996, John Tunheim, chair of the Board, with someone looking like Sam Dash, chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, standing behind him, stated that the Board had found that many of the records should never have been protected in the first place, but some remain classified to this day.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
Martha Wagner Murphy, head of the Special Access and Freedom of Information Act staff at the National Archives in College Park, Md., discussed recently the collection of artifacts related to the JFK assassination there and the ensuing Warren Commission.
Murphy, JFK, archives, assassination
478
2014-59-14
Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 07:59 AM
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