President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992
|Other short titles||JFK Records Act|
|Long title||An Act to provide for the expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.|
|Nicknames||Kennedy Assassination (Open Files) Bill|
|Enacted by||the 102nd United States Congress|
|Effective||October 26, 1992|
|Statutes at Large||106 Stat. 3443|
|Titles amended||44 U.S.C.: Public Printing and Documents|
|U.S.C. sections amended||44 U.S.C. ch. 21 § 2107|
|Pub.L. 103–345, 108 Stat. 3128, enacted October 6, 1994|
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is a public law passed by the United States Congress, effective October 26, 1992. It directed the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of records to be known as the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. It stated that the collection shall consist of copies of all U.S. government records relating to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that they are to be housed in the NARA Archives II building in College Park, Maryland. The collection also included any materials created or made available for use by, obtained by, or otherwise came into the possession of any state or local law enforcement office that provided support or assistance or performed work in connection with a federal inquiry into the assassination.
The final report of the Act's Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) partially credited the conclusions in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK with the passage of the Act. The ARRB stated that the film "popularized a version of President Kennedy's assassination that featured U.S. government agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the military as conspirators."
Requirements and process
The Act requires that each assassination record be publicly disclosed in full and be made available in the collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of the Act (which was October 26, 2017), unless the President of the United States certifies that: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
The definition of "assassination record" was left broad by the Act and determined in practice by the ARRB; a final definition was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 1995. The basic definition was:
An assassination record includes, but is not limited to, all records, public and private, regardless of how labeled or identified, that document, describe, report on, analyze, or interpret activities, persons, or events reasonably related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and investigations of or inquiries into the assassination.
This was supplemented with coverage of all government records relating to investigations of the assassination (including those specified in Section 3(2) of the Act), as well as supplementary records required to clarify meanings of other documents (such as code names used).
The ARRB determined that agencies could not object to disclosure "solely on grounds of non-relevance," stating that the ARRB is responsible for making decisions that determine relevance.
Assassination Records Review Board
The Act established, as an independent agency, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), to consider and render decisions when a U.S. government office sought to postpone the disclosure of assassination records. The Board met for four years, from October 1, 1994 to September 30, 1998. When the Act was passed in 1992, 98 percent of all Warren Commission documents had been released to the public. By the time the Board disbanded, all Warren Commission documents, except income tax returns, had been released to the public, with only minor redactions.
The ARRB collected evidence starting in 1992, then produced its final report in 1998. The ARRB was not enacted to determine why or by whom the murder was committed but to collect and preserve the evidence for public scrutiny. After the enactment of the federal law that created the ARRB, the Board collected a large number of documents and took testimony of those who had relevant information of the events. The Committee finished its work in 1998 and in its final report, the ARRB outlined the problems that government secrecy created regarding the murder of President Kennedy.
Some of the information was gathered by way of testimony from witnesses that had eyewitness knowledge of the events. For example, the Board interviewed the physicians who treated the president's massive head wound at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. This was a highly trained team of emergency care physicians, some of whom testified in secret before the Warren Commission. These transcripts have now also been made public. Other information consists of a large number of documents from the FBI and CIA that were required to cooperate with the turnover of relevant records held secret by these agencies.
A staff report for the Assassinations Records Review Board contended that brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of Kennedy's brain and show much less damage than Kennedy sustained. J. Thornton Boswell, who, along with James Humes did a secondary examination of Kennedy's brain, refuted these allegations. The Board also found that, conflicting with the photographic images showing no such defect, a number of witnesses, including at both the Autopsy and Parkland hospital, saw a large wound in the back of the president's head. The Board and board member, Jeremy Gunn, have also stressed the problems with witness testimony, asking people to weigh all of the evidence, with due concern for human error, rather than take single statements as "proof" for one theory or another.
By ARRB law (of 1998), all existing assassination-related documents will be made public by October 2017. At the moment, over 35,000 documents are still not fully available (partially redacted) to the public, and among them, 3,603 have never been seen by the public.
In 2013, the ARRB's former chairman John R. Tunheim and former deputy director Thomas Samoluk wrote in the Boston Globe that after the ARRB had declassified 5 million documents, "There is a body of documents that the CIA is still protecting, which should be released. Relying on inaccurate representations made by the CIA in the mid-1990s, the Review Board decided that records related to a deceased CIA agent named George Joannides were not relevant to the assassination. Subsequent work by researchers, using other records that were released by the board, demonstrates that these records should be made public." Tunheim and Samoluk pointed out that the CIA had not told the Warren Commission that George Joannides was the CIA lead for the Agency's links with the anti-Castro group Oswald had a public fight with in mid-1963; nor had they told the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), of which Joannides was the CIA's liaison. Tunheim said in a separate interview that "It really was an example of treachery ... If [the CIA] fooled us on that, they may have fooled us on other things."
On July 24, 2017, the National Archives began to release the remaining documents previously withheld.
The first release included 441 FBI and CIA records which had previously been withheld in full. These records had never previously been made available to the public. Another 3,369 records were also released which had previously been withheld in part, meaning that they had previously been made public, but parts of the records had been kept back for reasons of security or privacy. Records in the first release included 17 audio files of interviews of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who claimed to have been the officer in charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union. Nosenko defected to the U.S. in January 1964 and was extensively debriefed over a period of several years.
On October 21, 2017, US President Donald Trump stated on his Twitter account that he would allow release of the remaining documents. He tweeted: "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened." His statement left open the possibility that some documents could still be withheld under the JFK Records Act if their release would harm military operations, law enforcement or foreign relations.
On October 26, Trump signed a memo ordering release of all records collected under section 5 of the JFK Records Act. He gave agencies wishing to appeal release of all information in these records until April 26, 2018 to do so.
On the same day, NARA released another 2891 records. Most of the records in this second release were previously withheld in part.
On November 3, NARA released another 676 documents. Most of these were previously withheld in full. According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, the majority of the records in this third release were from the CIA. These files still contain a number of redactions, which remain subject to further review under President Trump's order.
On November 9, NARA released another 13,213 records. Most of these were previously withheld in part. According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, the records in this fourth release were from the CIA and NSA. Some of these records were redacted in part. These redactions remain subject to further review under President Trump's order.
On November 17, NARA released another 10,744 records, including 144 previously withheld in full and 10,600 previously withheld in part. All of the records in this fifth release were from the FBI. Some of these records were redacted in part. These redactions remain subject to further review under President Trump's order.
On December 15, NARA released another 3,539 previously withheld documents, leaving a total of 86 still classified in full.
On April 26, NARA released another 19,045 documents in accordance with President Trump's order. These releases include FBI, CIA, and other agency documents (both formerly withheld in part and formerly withheld in full) identified by the Assassination Records Review Board as assassination records. While no more documents required to be released under section 5 remain withheld in full, some still remain withheld in part and will not be declassified until 2021.
- Henry Graff, Member of the ARRB
- Kermit L. Hall, Member of the ARRB
- John R. Tunheim, Chairman of the ARRB
- David Marwell, Executive Director of the ARRB
- QKENCHANT, a CIA project, first disclosed because of JFK Records Act
- Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "George Bush: "Statement on Signing the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992," October 26, 1992". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
- Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). "Executive Summary". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. xxiii. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
- Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). "Chapter 1: The Problem of Secrecy and the JFK Act". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 6. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
- Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- ARRB Final Report, p. 2. Redacted text includes the names of living intelligence sources, intelligence gathering methods still used today and not commonly known, and purely private matters. The Kennedy autopsy photographs and X-rays were never part of the Warren Commission records and were deeded separately to the National Archives by the Kennedy family in 1966 under restricted conditions. The JFK Records Act specifically excluded those records.
- "Assassination Records Review Board Testimony". Jfkassassination.net. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-09. Retrieved 2015-06-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Parkland Doctors ARRB Testimony". Jfkassassination.net. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "Testimony Of Dr. Robert Nelson Mcclelland". Jfkassassination.net. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "Washingtonpost.com: JFK Assassination Report". www.washingtonpost.com.
- "Oliver Stone: JFK conspiracy deniers are in denial". USA TODAY.
- "JFK Assassination: Kennedy's Head Wound". mcadams.posc.mu.edu.
- "Clarifying the Federal Record on the Zapruder Film and the Medical and Ballistics Evidence". Federation of American Scientists.
- "Chapter 5 The Standards for Review: Review Board "Common Law"". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board. September 1998. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
- "A Call to Action". 2017JFK.org. 2015.
- "Why the last of the JFK files could embarrass the CIA". Politico. May 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- John R. Tunheim and Thomas E. Samoluk, Boston Globe, 21 November 2013, Assassination questions remain: With much revealed, CIA still holds back
- Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe, 25 November 2013, Troves of files on JFK assassination remain secret
- (24 July 2017) National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records. National Archives
- @realDonaldTrump (21 October 2017). "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "JFK assassination: Trump to allow release of classified documents". CBS News. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
- Shear, Michael D. (21 October 2017). "Trump Says He Will Release Final Set of Documents on Kennedy Assassination". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
- Yuhas, Alan (27 October 2017). "Government releases classified JFK assassination documents – as it happened". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Shapira, Ian; Hendrix, Steve; Leonnig, Carol D. (27 October 2017). "Trump delays release of some JFK assassination documents, bowing to national security concerns". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "Trump allows release of most but not all remaining Kennedy assassination files". Nbcnews.com. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Congress.gov at the Library of Congress: JFK Records Act ~ Senate Bill 3006
- "President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Extension Act of 1994 - P.L. 103-345" (PDF). 108 Stat. 3128 ~ H.R. 4569. U.S. Government Printing Office. October 6, 1994.
- "H.R. 4569 ~ President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Extension Act of 1994". P.L. 103-345 ~ 108 Stat. 3128. Congress.gov. June 13, 1994.
- "President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection". JFK Assassination Records. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- "President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection". GovInfo Features. U.S. Government Publishing Office.
- Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board, September 1998
- Medical Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Additional Medical Interviews Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Master Set of Medical Exhibits Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- CIA Personnel Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Washington D. C. 10-11-94 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Dallas, Texas 11-18-94 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Boston, Massachusetts 3-24-95 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- New Orleans, Louisiana 6-28-95 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Los Angeles, California 9-17-96 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Washington D. C. 4-2-97 Persons Testimony Before the Assassination Records Review Board
- Staff Memos of the Assassination Records Review Board