On April 26, 2021 the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) received a letter (click below to open letter) signed by several researchers and members of the public interested in the declassification and public release of records previously ‘postponed’ in 2017 and 2018. President Donald J. Trump previously certified agency postponement requests in accordance with the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (the Act) that established this collection and defined reasons agencies could request postponing the public release of specific information.
The PIDB remains interested in ensuring that the provisions of the Act are implemented and as much information as possible is declassified and made public. In 2017, the PIDB wrote a blog post about agency requests to postpone release of records in this collection. At that time, the members expressed their disappointment that so many records continued to be withheld from public access.
The Act mandated that all records in the collection be released to the public by September 26, 2017 unless agencies requested specific delays, called ‘postponements’ in the Act, from the President, and the President certified that each postponement was warranted and met standards found in section 5 of the Act. The Act mandated that agencies had to request postponements from the President every four years until such time as all records are declassified and made available to the public.
The latest deadline was April 26, 2021. Importantly, the National Archives which serves as the custodian of the assassination collection can challenge agency requests. It has until September 26, 2021 to complete its assessment of agency requests.
The members call on the National Archives to exercise its authority in the Act to challenge all requests that do not strictly meet the Congress’ intent to release as much information as possible and only postpone the most sensitive records that meet the standards in section 5(g)(2) of the Act.
The members of the PIDB take its responsibility to promote a “thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant United States national security decisions and significant United States national security activities in order to…respond to the interest of…Congress…and respond to the interest of the public” seriously. As the National Archives begins its analyses of the agency requests, the PIDB will continue pressing for maximum transparency. In the coming months leading up to the September 26 deadline and the President’s October 26 certification deadline, the PIDB will remain engaged and advocate for the public release of these records.