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Forty-Two Years After the Shootings at Kent State University, Key Questions Remain Unanswered

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Upon the solemn 42nd anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University we remember with love and compassion those who were affected. There are many of us who remember where we were when the news broke that the students had been killed. We will never forget how this tragedy changed our nation. News of the shootings sparked massive nation-wide protests and defined the way a generation of Americans interacted with its government.

What happened as a result of the shootings is well-documented. What we still don't know, to this day, is why the shootings took place. An audio recording of the events of May 4th may have answers.

The only known audio recording of those events was made by Terry Strubbe, who placed a microphone out of his window and recorded 29 minutes of audio. At least two copies of the Strubbe tape were made, with one ending up in Yale University's Kent State Collection in 1989. In 2010, the Cleveland Plain Dealer engaged forensic audio engineers to examine a copy of the Yale recording made by Alan Canfora, one of the thirteen victims of the Kent State shootings. That analysis found that shots were fired before the National Guard opened fire. That evidence could be significant, because it could connect an FBI paid informant who was on campus that day and who possessed a gun that might have been the one caught by Strubbe's microphone.

As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I requested that Yale University make another copy of the Strubbe tape to ensure its authenticity, and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice undertake a forensic analysis of this authenticated recording. The DOJ concluded that the tape was unintelligible, but that the sounds preceding the fire from the guardsmen were likely to be the sound of Strubbe's dorm room opening and closing.

Despite the detailed response from the Justice Department, significant questions remain. There was no attempt to reconcile major discrepancies in conclusions among expert analysts. The role of Terry Norman, the FBI informant on campus that day was not discussed. In order to lay these questions to rest, I wrote to the Justice Department requesting the full analysis used to reach their conclusions.

The Kent State shootings remain a significant event in American history, and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this tragedy. Nothing less than a full investigation is warranted.

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