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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawyer’s Bid for JFK Records Still on Hold

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - An attorney's bid for CIA records on the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy remains stalled, after a federal judge said Thursday that she can't tell whether the government looked hard enough for the records.

Anthony Bothwell - representing himself - sued the CIA in November 2013 for denying his records request under the Freedom of Information Act relating to five people who he claims may have been involved in the Kennedy assassinations in 1963 and 1968.

Bothwell describes himself as a San Francisco attorney who graduated from the John F. Kennedy University School of Law near Oakland, and later taught courses there.

His initial FOIA request sought all records related to three people allegedly connected to JFK's assassination: Johnny Roselli, Jean Souetre and David Morales,

As to RFK's assassination, Bothwell sought records Thane Eugene Cesar and Enrique Hernandez.

The CIA denied Bothwell's request as to the JFK connections, saying that if any documents existed they would be exempt from release as "intelligence sources and methods information." For the two individuals allegedly connected to the Bobby Kennedy assassination, the agency said those records were "operational files" also exempted under FOIA.

After Bothwell tailored his complaint to add the CIA as a defendant and dropped director John Brennan, the agency moved to dismiss the case saying it had done all it could for Bothwell. Specifically, the government claimed it had conducted a reasonable search for the records in question and stood behind its "neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records" response for the Souetre records, known as a Glomar response.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Corley said Thursday that the CIA's description of its final search for records lacked enough detail for Bothwell to challenge the search's adequacy - or for her to rule in the CIA's favor.

"While the declaration by CIA litigation chief Martha Lutz provides sufficient detail regarding CIA FOIA procedures and the rationale behind searching the National Clandestine Service and Directorate of Support, the description of the CIA's final search lacks the detail 'necessary to afford Bothwell an opportunity to challenge the adequacy of the search,'" Corley wrote. "It does not name the databases searched by the NCS and DS, nor does it provide a scheme of the database systems or any details of the final search strategy other than the use of names. This lack of clarity is compounded by some of the inconsistencies and ambiguities that Bothwell identifies in Lutz's description of the search results, as discussed below, and precludes the court from granting summary judgment in the CIA's favor."

But Corley accepted the CIA's Glomar response for the Souetre records, buying the agency's story that 50-year-old records of the investigation into a French national's activities might reveal intelligence sources and methods that are exempt from release.

"Requiring the CIA to confirm or deny the existence of a classified relationship with a foreign national runs the danger of revealing an intelligence source, method, or target," Corley wrote. "In addition, consistent use of the Glomar response is necessary for the CIA to keep its intelligence-gathering 'mosaic' whole."

Corley also declined Bothwell's suggestion that redacting the files would suffice.

"Here the classified information is the mere existence or nonexistence of responsive records on Souetre, not the information contained in any potential documents on him," Corley wrote. "Requesting in camera inspection would require the CIA to admit that it has records on Souetre, a fact that this court has already determined is exempt from disclosure. Thus, there is no possibility of redaction in this case."

The judge ordered the CIA to explain how its search for records concerning Roselli, Morales, Cesar and Hernandez was adequate by Oct. 31.

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