About Howard


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About Howard
Howard WillensHoward P. Willens is an attorney, author, and historian who has practiced law in both the public and private sectors in Washington D.C. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan in 1953 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1956. He is the author of “HISTORY WILL PROVE US RIGHT: An Insider Reveals the True Story of the Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination” from Overlook Press.

After military service he entered private practice, but soon thereafter went into public service. He served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (1961-65), assistant counsel to the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (1963-64), and executive director of the President’s Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia (1965-66).

Mr. Willens was retained by the Northern Marianas people in 1972 to represent them in negotiations with the United States regarding the terms under which they became U.S. citizens and a commonwealth under U.S. sovereignty. He served as lead counsel to the First Marianas Constitutional Convention in 1976 and the Third Marianas Constitutional Convention in 1995-96. He continues to represent the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and served as Special Legal Counsel to the Governor during 2006-13.

Mr. Willens and his co-author, Deanne C. Siemer, have written a book entitled “National Security and Self-Determination: United States Policy in Micronesia (1961-1972)” published by Praeger (June 2000); and a book entitled “An Honorable Accord: The Covenant Between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States (1972-1976)” published by the University of Hawaii Press (2001). With Professor Dirk A. Ballendorf of the University of Guam as his co-author, Mr. Willens wrote “The Secret Guam Study” published by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office (2005).

Mr. Willens was a partner in the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering from 1967 through 1994. His practice included complex litigation in federal and state courts, arbitration of disputes involving foreign governments and corporations, and appellate work in federal and state courts. He advised clients regarding alleged violations of U.S. criminal laws and conducted internal investigations of alleged criminal conduct by corporate employees. On the regulatory side, he represented clients before agencies administering U.S. antitrust, securities, anti-discrimination, automotive safety and emissions, anti-boycott, and consumer protection laws.

Mr. Willens continues to practice law and consult as a Managing Director of Wilsie Co. LLC in Washington, D.C.


History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy(Link)


On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in front of hundreds of onlookers. Everything was over in mere seconds, but the events of that day have been the subject of heated debate for five decades. The presidential commission tasked with finding the truth, headed by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren, published its findings the following year–Oswald had acted alone–but the report did little to quell conspiracy theorists. Many seized on what they saw as inconsistencies in the report and branded the whole investigation a cover-up. Warren himself calmly dismissed the criticism, assuring his fellow commission members that “history will prove us right.”

Now, in this eye-opening new account of the Commission and its findings, Howard P. Willens sets out to prove that Warren’s advice was prescient. Willens, one of the few surviving staff members of the Warren Commission, supervised the investigation from the very beginning and has waited until now to silence the critics and well-intentioned armchair detectives. Drawn from Willens’ own journals and extensive notes on the investigation–which have never before been published–History Will Prove Us Right tells the true and complete story, perhaps for the first time, of every aspect of the investigation into one of the century’s most harrowing events from a uniquely first-person perspective.

An Honorable Accord : The Covenant Between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States (Pacific Islands Monograph Series, No. 18.)(Link)

University of Hawaii Press

Written with Deanne Siemer

In 1975, after three centuries of colonial rule, the people of the Northern Marianas exercised their right of self-determination to become U.S. citizens in a self-governing commonwealth under U.S. sovereignty. An Honorable Accord is the remarkable account of their tenacious efforts to shape a political future separate from other Micronesian peoples, of the negotiations that produced the Covenant defining the commonwealth relationship, and its eventual approval by the Northern Marianas people and the U.S. Congress.

National Security and Self-Determination: United States Policy in Micronesia (1961-1972)(Link)


Written with Deanne Siemer

After World War II, the United States assumed responsibilities for the Northern Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Marshall Islands under a 1947 trusteeship agreement with the United Nations. The United States had the obligation to prepare these Micronesians for self-government or independence after termination of the trusteeship, but the Interior, State, and Defense Departments paid little attention to this question until 1961.

Willens and Siemer examine the Kennedy administration’s formation of a new Micronesian policy aimed at bringing these islanders under U.S. sovereignty by 1968, the inability of the federal agencies to achieve this objective, and their refusal to acknowledge that the Northern Marianas people had very different economic and political aspirations than the other Micronesians. By 1969, the Micronesian leaders—except for those of the Northern Marianas—were increasingly attracted to a future political status that rejected United States citizenship and had most of the attributes of a sovereign nation-state. Willens and Siemer analyze the initial negotiations between United States and Micronesian representatives, the inability of the United States to respond positively to the demands of the Micronesian negotiators, and the national defense and strategic objectives at issue. By April 1972, the United States recognized that its non-fragmentation policy conflicted with the right of self-determination of the Northern Marianas people and agreed to separate status negotiations with them. A detailed review of recent Micronesian history that will be of considerable value to U.S. government officials involved with insular affairs and foreign policy and scholars and researchers of Micronesian, Pacific islands, and Marianas affairs.

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