Bending to national security pressures from the FBI and CIA, President Trump recently announced that he would be delaying the full release of JFK assassination records for maybe another three years.
The president previously mentioned that he would be releasing the files back in October, but a full release may not be until 2021.
“I agree with the Archivist’s recommendation that the continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Trump said in a memo released by the White House.
Trump added that need for the continued protection of the documents, “can only grow weaker with the passage of time.”
For now though, the decision to grant additional delays means the president has backtracked from his promise last October. At the time, Trump wrote on Twitter “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
The full release of the remaining records related to the JFK assassination was signed into law in 1992 by then-President George H.W. Bush. As POLITICO previously reported, the law ordered the immediate release of thousands of documents and set a 25-year deadline for the release of 3,100 unreleased documents and the full, unredacted versions of 30,000 pages already mad public. The 25-year window ran out last year, but the law does give the opportunity for extensions to be granted for concerns, like national security reasons.
The memo coincided with the National Archives release of over 19,000 documents, the final release in accordance with Trump’s directive from last year. According to the archives, 520 documents remain withheld in full and were not subject to the 25-year requirement and 15,834 documents are still redacted, although less so then they were as of October 2017.
Last October, Trump gave the FBI and CIA until Thursday to re-review the remaining files. The White House memo released Thursday said those agencies are also instructed to re-review those redactions over the next three years.
The 1992 law came amid a public outcry after the Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-filled “JFK,” which went on to win an Academy Award. Despite multiple government inquires into the assassination, there remains a fervent base of people who feel JFK’s death was the result of a conspiracy.
Here’s more, via Washington Post:
Trump said the next deadline for release of more documents would be Oct. 26, 2021. “The need for continued protection can only grow weaker with the passage of time…,” Trump wrote.
Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post staff writer who edits JFKFacts.org, a website devoted to the Kennedy records, said in an interview that he was disappointed by Trump’s decision to delay the full release for another three years and, possibly, beyond.
“Trump said that all the JFK files will be released, but the truth is that thousands of JFK files are still secret. The clear intent of Congress was to have these released last October and now we’re talking about 2021,” Morley said. “The point is that the CIA wants to keep this secret forever. It’s a very clear statement of intent.”
Morley also said that the Trump administration is not complying with the stipulations of the Kennedy Records Act, which requires that the administration provide declassified explanations for withheld documents.
On October 26, 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act. The law required that all the assassination records “shall be publicly disclosed in full and available” at the National Archives “no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of the enactment of this act.” But the law did allow for postponements if the government was worried that harm to the military and intelligence communities “outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
As TIME reports, more than 19,000 JFK files were released earlier in the week:
On April 26, in compliance with the deadline set by President Trump last October, the National Archives released 19,045 additional documents from the JFK assassination files. Instead of a full reveal, however, some material will still be kept from the public due to “identifiable national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns,” according to a White House memo. The president said he was ordering agencies to “re-review each of the redactions over the next three years,” and set a deadline for further release of documents of October 26, 2021.
In October 2017, 2,800 files about the 1963 murder were made public for the first time, bringing to the fore revelations that an alleged Cuban intelligence officer met Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City, and praised his shooting ability, and that the Soviet spy agency KGB believed then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson may have conspired to assassinate Kennedy.
Miami Herald has more information about the recently released files:
Some stuff in the documents that had been open for years is now classified again, and some stuff that had been classified and is now open is so innocuous that nobody can figure out what the point was.
“You have things going back to the 1950s that were just declassified today, things that were probably of marginal importance even back then,” said Gerald Posner, the Miami Beach author whose book “Case Closed” argues strongly against a conspiracy in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The documents revealed Thursday were supposed to be the final batch of a phased roll-out set by Congress in 1992 for the release of all government documents related to the assassination. But in the face of fierce argument from the CIA, FBI and other security organs, President Trump backed down.