NARA Releases More JFK Records, as President Biden Approves Few Delays

On December 15, 2022, pursuant to the latest White House memorandum on the disclosure of records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released 13,173 records previously withheld by the federal government. These newly disclosed records are available online in NARA’s JFK Assassination Records Collection, which has increased by increments since 1992. The collection and review of these records is governed by the  JFK Assassination Records Act (JFK Act).

Following the postponement of disclosure to October 25, 2021, by President Trump, President Biden set new deadlines and certified the postponement of disclosure for all JFK records still withheld through December 15, 2022.  The 13,173 records released in accordance with President Biden’s most recent memorandum meet that deadline for all records subject to the JFK Act, but exclude 515 documents withheld in full and another 2,545 documents withheld in part.

Consistent with the JFK Act, and the recommendation of NARA’s Acting Archivist of the United States, President Biden’s current memorandum certifies that all JFK Assassination Records that agencies have proposed for continued postponement under the JFK Act “shall be withheld from public disclosure until June 30, 2023” (White House Memorandum, Section 4, Temporary Certification, December 15, 2022). These records are to be reviewed by NARA and the relevant agencies by May 1, 2023, to submit any requests for further postponement beyond June 30.

Finally, the Biden memorandum requires that agencies reviewing withheld JFK records prepare “Transparency Plans” to be reviewed by NARA, and used by the National Declassification Center (NDC) at NARA, “to ensure that information would continue to be disclosed over time as the identified harm associated with release of the information dissipates” (White House Memorandum, Section 7, December 15, 2022). Transparency Plans submitted by agencies to the NDC will detail “event-based or circumstance-based conditions that will trigger the public disclosure of currently postponed information” by the NDC at NARA.

The release of additional JFK records complies with the rigorous process for agencies to review and request the postponement of disclosures that President Biden certified in December 2021. The additional requirement in this year’s certification that agencies must submit transparency plans to the NDC and NARA in order to request any further disclosure postponements beyond June 2023 should further improve the process.

The Public Interest Declassification Board supports these advances toward government transparency, and will continue to remain engaged to insure that departments and agencies comply with the JFK Records Act and the President’s instructions. In the coming months the Board intends to conduct a sampling of records that remain classified and meet with originating agencies to understand the rationale behind continued withholding from public release.

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