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COPA v. Pentagon on King Files
press release, 05/14/01
Coalition on Political Assassinations
For Immediate Release: May 14, 2001
Citizen's Group Sues Pentagon for Release of Surveillance Files
on the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Washington, DC) The Coalition on Political Assassinations [COPA] will present oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in their Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] suit demanding release of all military intelligence files relating to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the time of his assassination in 1968.
The original FOIA request for records, in 1998, specified a full range of Army Intelligence units that were reportedly involved in surveillance of Dr. King up to and including the day of his assassination. Early responses from the Department of Defense FOIA office indicated that there was not a single file in their records regarding the controversial civil rights and anti-war activist.
COPA persisted in its efforts to retrieve records that reportedly existed in military intelligence files. Veterans of Army Intelligence were reported to have seen photographic surveillance records of the events of the assassination on April 4, 1968. COPA pursued the matter in the courts, and the Pentagon conceded that one file had been sent to the National Archives for review, as part of a large collection of civil rights era records that remain classified. An expedited declassification led to release of an "after-action summary" of the 111th and 112th Military Intelligence Groups activities in the days surrounding the murder of Dr. King, and confirmed that these units were in Memphis and had him under close surveillance as part of Operation Lantern Spike. The Pentagon also claimed that only records that had "historical significance" would have been preserved and sent on to the National Archives, and that others had been routinely destroyed.
COPA will appeal a lower court decision that held in favor of the Pentagon in the case, ruling that they had exhausted the possible searches and complied with the FOIA. "If the "after-action summary" held enough historical significance to preserve it, would not the original documents it was based on hold even more?" asks Daniel S. Alcorn, the attorney representing COPA in the suit. In addition, COPA has obtained additional records about the unit activities that were released to a journalist in Memphis by Army Intelligence, who reported initial denials by unit members that they were spying on King in Memphis. The Pentagon never released these files to COPA. Also, other records were reportedly provided by Army Intelligence to the Justice Department investigators who recently studied allegations of a conspiracy and FBI cover-up in the King case.
COPA believes that the Pentagon has not been forthcoming in its search or full release of all existing documents that may shed light on its role in the surveillance of Dr. King at the time of his death. COPA has also demanded full release of all government files relating to earlier investigations of the murder, including some 600,000 pages held by Congress from the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
COPA v. Department of Defense will have oral arguments presented in the U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15 at the Federal Courthouse, 3rd & Constitution Ave, NW, 5th Floor.
COPA is a national organization of forensic, ballistic and medical experts, academics and authors, researchers and concerned citizens working for release all official records relating to the still unsolved political assassinations of the last four decades. COPA was instrumental in the passage and implementation of the JFK Assassination Records Act, which released over 6 million pages of classified documents so far, the largest single release of records in American history. More remain to be released.