Rex Bradford is the president of The Mary Ferrell Foundation
State of the JFK Releases 2023
On June 27 of this year, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) put 1,103 documents online, all of them updated versions of documents previously released, with some blacked-out areas (“redactions”) removed to reveal the underlying text. The vast majority of these documents still feature some redactions, as do a few thousand other records in the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (JFK Collection) that NARA maintains at its facility in College Park, Maryland.
This release was the fourteenth time since the summer of 2017 that NARA put JFK records online, in the wake of the triggering of a “sunset clause” of The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Records Act). This clause mandated that, absent specific presidential action, all records in the JFK Collection would be released by October 26, 2017, 25 years after the JFK Records Act was passed. But instead of allowing full release, two successive presidents authorized agencies to postpone disclosure of certain records and presided over a process of release of some records and repeatedly kicking the can down the road on the remainder.
Apparently the can has now been kicked well down the road. Despite thousands of records remaining partially redacted, an order from President Biden decrees that further review and disclosure of withheld records will be done not in accordance with the JFK Records Act, but rather under “Transparency Plans” developed by each relevant government agency, and approved by NARA. The outcome is predictable, and the intent appears to be to kill off the stringent disclosure requirements of the JFK Records Act without bothering to try to officially terminate an act of Congress.
This essay starts with a bit of background on the history of revelations in the JFK assassination saga. It then reviews the last 6 years of document releases, and discusses where we are now, coming up on 60 years after the murder of a U.S. president in broad daylight at the height of the Cold War.