On the eve of a major Whistleblower Summit in the nation's capital, a federal judge issued a shocking pro-CIA ruling that has the effect of discouraging disclosure about the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon denied attorneys fees under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to truth-seekers whose decade-long litigation against the CIA unearthed one of the most important disclosures during recent years in the murder investigation.
One revelation from the litigation was that a CIA psychological warfare expert, George Joannides, may have met accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before the killing -- and then failed to disclose that fact in the 1970s to congressional investigators reexamining the case. Joannides was the CIA's official liaison to congressional investigators.
Leon has issued three previous pro-CIA rulings, all reversed by the federal appellate court. His pattern of pro-agency rulings helps underscore the importance of the annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights, which began Monday, July 28 and extended for four highly successful days at several locations in Washington, DC. Details are here.
At the Summit, I examined Leon's role during my panel discussion about FOIA litigation on the opening day 28. I did so so earlier during the day also during a radio interview by Gloria Minott of WPFW-FM, which was syndicated nationally by the Pacifica Network and locally at 89.3 FM.
Minott was the main moderator of the Summit, which honored, among others, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. Nacchio was imprisoned on dubious financial fraud charges after he refused a Bush-Cheney administration demand before 9/11 to help the NSA undertake illegal surveillance of Qwest customers. My information from expert sources for years has has been that Nacchio was targeted by prosecutors as reprisal for being the only major telco CEO to refuse the government's then-illegal spying orders.
More generally, whistleblowers should know that Leon's decision discouraging investigation of President Kennedy's murder helps illustrate how truth-seekers can face hidden obstacles that motivate biased judges and other supposedly independent watchdogs to use their skills to fight disclosure even -- or especially -- when the stakes are high.
Truth-seekers should thus press forward with litigation and other tactics, but should be prepared also to fight in the court of public opinion.