AN APPEAL TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: PUBLISH ALL FBI, CIA AND NYPD FILES RELATING TO THE 21ST FEBRUARY 1965 ASSASSINATION OF MALCOLM X
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‘The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public…’ – President Barack Obama, 21 January 2009
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us…” – Attorney General Eric Holder, 18 February 2009
Taking into account your deeply disappointing 2011 decision not to re-open an investigation into the 21st February 1965 assassination of Malcolm X (citing the ‘scarcity of federal investigative resources’, among other reasons) – and in the light of your 2009 memoranda on Transparency and Open Government in which you expressed a commitment to disclosure and transparency as it relates to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – we, the undersigned, appeal to your administration to publish, in full and without redaction, all federal government files and records relating to the crime.
Chief amongst these should be all surveillance materials and documents compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the New York Police Department’s Bureau of Special Services (BOSS). In addition, we call on your administration to declassify all Presidential Daily Briefs (or PDB's) from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as they relate to Malcolm X. In particular we seek access to the Malcolm X portions of the 22nd February 1965 PDB.
Having seen fit to declassify Bush-era Justice Department memos on enhanced interrogation in April 2009, notwithstanding the serious possibility that their disclosure could undermine ongoing efforts against international terrorists, what possible justification could there be for your administration’s failure to make available to the public all federal records relating to a crime that is now nearly half a century old?
We are confident that the publication of the fully-unredacted Malcolm X files would be a sensation with few parallels in publishing history and that the millions of copies they would sell worldwide would pay for their own publication several times over and leave enough of a surplus to fund a new investigation and trial of their subject’s surviving assassins – a trial in which Malcolm X himself would be the ‘star witness for the prosecution.’
In addition, we appeal to your administration, pursuant to your own 2009 directive that ‘all agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government’, that steps be taken to establish an online virtual library through which the public can access all wiretaps, film and audio recordings, photographs and other federal surveillance materials relating to the Malcolm X assassination. This virtual library could also be funded out of the proceeds of the worldwide sale of the published Malcolm X files.
For nearly 50 years scholars, researchers and investigators have had to rely on pure speculation as to what information lay concealed behind the extensive redactions that presently disfigure even those Malcolm X files that have been made available to the public. This has resulted in a toxic culture of capricious conjecture and conspiracy theory that we now call upon you to bring to a close. As Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’ 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Malcolm X assassination and a fitting occasion on which to illumine the world.
These courageous acts by your administration would help to validate your professed commitment to open government, bring closure to one of the seminal cold cases of the Civil Rights era and cement a joint legacy that would secure your place among the country’s greatest presidents and attorneys general.
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