''JFK'' spurs discussion over sealed records -- Oliver Stone's film opens doors for full disclosure of assassination files

Forget ”Who shot JFK?” The big question now is, ”Who masterminded director Oliver Stone’s ‘free the files’ campaign?” After calling for the records of Kennedy’s assassination to be made public, Stone seemed to have scored a career coup this month when Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) decided to introduce a House resolution to comply by opening all secret files on the shooting. (The documents would have otherwise remained sealed till 2029; under the Stokes bill, they may be opened within a month.)

But the victory isn’t exactly a spontaneous reaction to the uproar created by JFK. In fact, say politicos, responsibility for bringing the files to light lies with the lobbying blitz mounted by Frank Mankiewicz, vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm.

The former press aide to Robert Kennedy, Mankiewicz was hired by Warner Bros. last August to handle ”nonentertainment” press for JFK. But most of his behind-the-scenes moves were aimed at releasing the files — they included hosting a December JFK screening for members of Congress and orchestrating a vital meeting between Stone, Stokes, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), former CIA director William Colby, and former FBI and CIA chief William Webster. ”He opened the door for Stone,” says a spokesman for Hamilton, an early advocate of full disclosure. Though Mankiewicz downplays his role, he does acknowledge, ”Politicians like to have their pictures taken with celebrities, but when it comes to policy, they’re a little wary of show business.”