Testimony of Max Holland

Hearing of 10/11/94 -- Washington, DC.
Is Max Holland here?

Good afternoon, Mr. Holland, and welcome.

MR. HOLLAND: Good afternoon.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to state my views with respect to the question of what constitutes an assassination record. Before I give the outlines of a definition I have tried to develop, I want to state clearly that I subscribe to two premises about records pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy. The first is that the crime should not be divorced from its overarching historical context, namely the Cold War. The foreign and domestic Federal responses and decisions of any moment during the period 1946 to 1989 was affected by the Cold War mind-set and Cold War dictates, and I believe that the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination was no exception.

My second premise follows directly from the first, a major, though not the only reason why the public is confused and cynical is that the assassination has been divorced from its context for more than 30 years. Highly pertinent records have been segregated, kept secret primarily because of Cold War exigencies. The public, quite naturally, but erroneously cannot square this continued secrecy with government assurances that the essential truth about the assassination has already been told.

The Federal government has made several attempts since the Warren Report's publication to put the lingering controversy of the assassination to rest, none of these efforts have succeeded, however, in large measure because the same overriding geopolitical consideration, the Cold War, has always hampered full disclosure. But now that the Cold War is over, many secrets need not be kept any longer.

That profound fact along with the Review Board's extraordinary powers and mandate present the Board with an extraordinary opportunity and responsibility, how the Board chooses, therefore, to define an assassination record is of the utmost importance.

Many of the elements in the proper definition are manifest, and it is truly your task to develop an all-inclusive definition. At the risk of stating some obvious considerations, I believe any definition of assassination record should include these elements, all documents generated or received by each and every Federal inquiry ever conducted into the events that began on November 22nd, starting with the FBI's initial investigation, then followed by the Warren Commission, the panel set up by Ramsey Clarke, the Rockefeller Commission, the Church Committee, the Pike Committee, and finally the House Assassinations Committee.

All documents in the possession of any Federal entity or office or State or local law enforcement office that pertain to the events that began on November 22nd and were not transferred to the Warren Commission or subsequent inquiries by the originating or recipient Federal, State or local entity. I will be glad to clarify these if they seem a little inexact.

Third, all documents pertaining to covert and clandestine U.S. efforts to depose or subvert Castro's regime from January 1960 to January 1969, including proposed assassination plots.

Four, all documents that depict the response of the U.S. Government, and in particular the measures taken by the national security apparatus, the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies to the news from Dallas on November 22nd.

Five, all pertinent documents about the assassination or its aftermath contained in private personal papers of top Federal officials who played leading roles in the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Administrations or participated in national security planning with respect to Cuba from 1960 to 1968, or were substantially involved with any one of the Federal inquiries into the events that began on November 22nd.

The final category would be documents generated by foreign governments. In particular, I think the important governments are the former Soviet Union, Cuba and Mexico.

These five broad categories provide a rough definition, and perhaps it would help the Review Board to understand my perspective if I provide some specific example of records that fall under one or more of the categories established.

Under B, for example, records not provided to the Warren Commission, I would include, for example, records possessed by the now defuncted House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and the Senate Internal Security Committee as they pertained to the assassination.

Under C, documents pertaining to subversion of Castro's regime, I would specify records generated by the special group augmented in NSC Committee that approved all covert and clandestine activities directed against Castro's regime.

Under D, documents that pertain to the response of the U.S. Government after the assassination, I would include these kinds of records, all relevant records in the possession of the National Security Agency, including communications intercepts conducted by it, other agencies of the U.S. Government, or allied eavesdropping agencies in the wake of the assassination; also all records generated by the Watch Committee, an interdepartmental group which convened in the State Department immediately following news of the assassination; also all records generated or received in the White House situation room in the aftermath of the assassination; all records generated or received in the National Command Center, the Department of Defense's military nerve center after the assassination; and also something like transcripts of the telephone calls that were made from Air Force One by President Johnson on the return flight to Washington from Dallas.

Under E, which is personal, private papers, and this is a very naughty subject because of the lack of clarity regarding an official's ability to take government documents with him when he or she left public service, I think the Board ought to at least approach and see if they are willing to cooperate without any threat of subpoena to make sure that you get access to the papers of Robert F. Kennedy; Douglas Dillon, who was Secretary of the Treasury; Nicholas Katzenbach, who was Number 2 in the Department of Justice; George Bundy, the National Security Advisor to President Kennedy; John McCone, the Director of Central Intelligence; Allen Dulles, his predecessor; Richard Helms, the Director of Clandestine Operations; and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who was an aide in the White House.

Under F, which would be documents generated by foreign governments, obviously the KGB files or any Soviet files on Oswald are of importance, although I believe some of these were transferred, at least some part were transferred to the State Department right after the assassination, and also any Mexican Police or intelligence files about Oswald's trip to Mexico City, and naturally any files that the Cuban government might want to make available.

Finally, I would strongly urge the Review Board, while fashioning its definition of an assassination record, to consult two men who for slightly different reasons are very familiar with the government documents. The first would be David Belin, who was an assistant counsel on the Warren Commission, and later the Executive Director of the Rockefeller Commission and, as such, someone who has had unparalleled access to CIA records. The second man is Dr. Alfred Goldberg who is a historian in the Air Force who was brought on the Warren Commission by the Chief Justice to serve as a historical advisor. He is now the Chief Historian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon.

That concludes my presentation. I will be glad to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Holland.

Go ahead, Dr. Graff.

DR. GRAFF: Mr. Holland, is there some reason, or did I miss it, why you would not have a survey of organized crime records? Is that because of your own view of how the assassination was brought about?

MR. HOLLAND: Basically, I wouldn't be against it but I am not necessarily an advocate of it.

DR. GRAFF: So we have heard this morning or this afternoon about the possibility of a coup d'etat by the Joint Chiefs, although you mentioned some Defense Department records, you would not specifically look in that category that was mentioned by a previous witness?

MR. HOLLAND: When I mention top Defense Department records, I think it is because it will lay some suspicions to rest to look at the reactions of various agencies of the U.S. Government immediately after the assassination as to whether this was a coup d'etat or whatever.

I mean, I don't believe it was, but it would be helpful to the historical record for people to realize how the perception of what had happened first manifested itself and then changed in the months following the assassination.

DR. GRAFF: I see. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Go ahead, Dr. Hall.

DR. HALL: Mr. Holland, I am especially taken by your discussion of private personal papers that were taken by public officials, and you indicated it was a complex matter and it surely is.

I am wondering, however, if I can get you to speak a little bit more about the conceptual, the philosophical issues that you see are presented by these materials in the light of our command for public disclosure?

MR. HOLLAND: Well, there are probably lines that are going to have to be drawn, but certainly I think the papers of Robert Kennedy are very significant, primarily because of his unusual role during the Administration. He was both the President's brother, closest advisor and very involved in foreign policy issues, most notably the covert attempts to subvert Castro's regime.

His papers are at the Kennedy Library. They have never really become part of the assassination record. They have never really been investigated by any of the Federal inquiries. It was just considered that the subject was so painful that Robert Kennedy had no valuable information. I don't think that is correct.

I think, if you look at his activities, it is sort of a Rosetta Stone in terms of the Cold War context of this matter. So I think it is incumbent on the Board to put his papers at a very high priority.

Does that answer your question?

DR. HALL: It certainly answers with regard to Robert Kennedy. I do think that there is a nice issue here involving public access necessary to the functioning of a democracy and the preservation and protection of private property interest which can be seen as necessary to the functioning of a democracy.

MR. HOLLAND: This is a very thorny legal issue and, of course, with Presidents it only been settled very recently after President Nixon resigned, they passed a law specifying exactly how a President's papers are disposed of.

With regard to other officials, in my own researches, I know someone like Averell Harriman thought nothing of taking everything that came across his desk that interested him, and his collection is huge, and it is a lot of classified government documents. Now, at the time, there was nothing against that in a legal sense and he did it. Other officials, when they walked out of the Justice Department, or wherever, they left everything that came across their desk.

So I think once you establish some priority, it would just behoove the Board to voluntarily ask officials who may have acted in this way in an earlier time to cooperate and volunteer documents.

DR. HALL: Certainly the relationship of the legal standard that we talked about earlier to the historical standard is one that strikes me as pushing the Committee or pushing the Board to give perhaps some greater credence, exercising some fuller fidelity to the idea that the historical standard, that is, we need the truth, ought to outweigh whatever the particular legal standard may be.

MR. HOLLAND: I agree.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: And since historians outnumber lawyers on this Board.

Dr. Joyce, you have a question?

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Holland, throughout the hearing today there have been what seem to me to be two threads that are not altogether mutually comfortable, one being an advocating the Board to take a fairly systematic approach to investigating the records in various and many government agencies, the other being a menu of suggested priorities for looking here and there, asking very specific questions of the records rather than undertaking any kind of systematic survey of them.

I am wondering, given this broad dilemma that we face in terms of not only defining a record but undertaking programs to systematically release as many of them as possible, if you have any comment on the respective merits of these two models that are posed for us, and what guidance you might have for us in that regard?

MR. HOLLAND: Well, you have a Herculean task any way you look at it. I think my bias would be to fully disclose records that were both provided to the previous investigations were denied to those investigations by Federal offices.

However, I do think you should seriously entertain leads that researchers who are looking through the records that have been declassified give you, and you have to start exercising your own judgment at some point because, obviously, it is very conceivable that some of the Federal inquiries did not look into things that they had no idea about, and that is clear about the Warren Commission in the first instance.

So it is going to be a balancing test. Like I say, I think you have to treat the records that are in existence already, which are massive, and then supplement that by suggestions you get from the research community.

DR. NELSON: I have one. I actually wanted to return to the question of private papers. It seems to me there are several categories here. Private papers are not always personal papers is what you are saying and, of course, we know anyone who has been to Presidential libraries knows that half of what is there in personal collections are Federal records. In fact, it is illegal to take out a record unless there is a copy left. So that seems to me it is a fairly clear issue if there is a deed of gift, and if it is in a library, it becomes a Federal record.

The problem rests with those documents that are in libraries but have not been given as a deed of gift. Would you limit, and this I think is where you run into legal problems, would you limit the Board to documents that appear to be -- would you trust the person who had produced the documents to give you what was, in fact, federally-related records? How would you differentiate between it when asking them, for example? This is the thorniest issue of what to do with these records and documents. It is not Joe Smith down the road, it is someone who was very much involved but whose records we know exist but, in fact, are not part of the Federal system yet.

MR. HOLLAND: I guess my answer would be conditional kind of depending on who we are talking about. There are some officials, I think, I would push very hard on, and others I would accept an assurance at face value that they have looked through everything that is still held under the deed of gift out of the archive, and have given us everything that is pertinent.

DR. NELSON: The second thing I would like to raise, because we have heard this all day also and it is very important, is our need for foreign government records, but one of the big problems we have here, one of the problems that everyone has raised, is that there is a sense that not all the documents are given when one asks. What do we do, how do we know, how complete can the record ever be of foreign governments, especially given the fact that whatever the grave deficiencies of our own system, it is the best around. Other countries may not keep the records, really not keep them. This poses another terrific problem to us. How do we handle that?

MR. HOLLAND: Well, I mean, I think the law makes some provision for the Secretary of State to ask foreign governments, and I think in the end we are just going to have to rely on their faith because you have no power to subpoena their officials and verify that the documents are genuine or anything else. You are just going to have to make and appeal.

DR. NELSON: I think it is worth putting that on the record because there is only so much we can do outside our own borders.

MR. HOLLAND: Obviously Cuba may feel differently about the importance of divulging everything than a government that doesn't even exist any more.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Anything further?

[No response.]

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Holland, we appreciate your help.

MR. HOLLAND: Thank you.


Search Go to testimony Go to Fair Play Releases E-mail ARRB Go to home page ARRB Info Top of ARRB page