On September 27, 2021, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) submitted a letter to President Biden unanimously encouraging the maximum public release of records under the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act (JFK Act). Passed in 1992, the JFK Act required all federal agencies and offices to identify, organize, and transfer copies of all records regarding the JFK assassination to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Although the JFK Act broadly required the public disclosure of the Kennedy assassination records collection under NARA’s custody, it empowered an independent Assassination Records Review Board to postpone temporarily specific records from public disclosure, using narrow criteria specified in the JFK Act.
Those temporary postponements expired on October 25, 2017. However, the JFK Act permitted agencies to petition the President to delay the public release of those records beyond that date. Then-President Trump subsequently approved agency requests, totaling about 14,000 records, and extended postponements until October 26, 2021. Agencies have now requested that President Biden delay the public release of approximately 12,000 records a second time.
Over the past eight months, the PIDB has received many letters and comments from the public on the continued postponement of the release of these records; the writers stressed their interest in seeing them declassified and released to the public, as the JFK Act intended. As the President contemplates whether to approve the agencies’ requests, the PIDB felt it important to add its voice by advocating for the declassification of as much information as possible.
The PIDB will continue to monitor the public release of these records to ensure proper application of the JFK Act criteria for postponing release of information. Additionally, the board may consider requesting a random sampling of documents to verify that agencies are following the review procedures established by the act.
The PIDB’s letter to President Biden is now posted on the PIDB’s website, see: https://www.archives.gov/files/pidb/recommendations/pidb-potus-letter-jfk-assassination-records.pdf.