The law says Trump can prevent files from being released, citing national security
Two Republicans unveiled a bill urging the release
More than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy was slain in full view of the world, the final government documents about his death are set for release.
That is, unless President Donald Trump, citing national security, certifies that some unreleased or redacted files be kept from public view.
The documents are among the last of still-secret papers the government amassed on the assassination. Some grand jury and tax documents will remain secret.
The JFK Records Act passed in 1992, following the release of the Oliver Stone movie “JFK” and a surge in interest about the killing. The law mandated the government release the remaining files to the public and gave it 25 years to do so. October 26, 2017, will mark 25 years since then-President George H.W. Bush signed the measure into law and is the deadline for full release.
But concern has abounded from advocates of total disclosure that the Trump administration might block some of the release at the behest of the intelligence community.
The National Archives said government agencies had deemed files covered by the act prior to its passage too sensitive for release, and the Archives would not characterize them outside of noting many are likely only somewhat related to the investigation.
They run the gamut from FBI to CIA materials and all manner of documents said to pertain to investigations into Kennedy’s death.
The Archives said the full collection – much of which is already publicly available – spans millions of documents.
Many files have been released about the Kennedy assassination over the years, including some in redacted form. Barring a waiver from the President, the obscured text will be revealed, and the Archives posted a tranche of files in July ahead of the October deadline.
CIA spokesperson Nicole de Haay said, “CIA continues to engage in the process to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously-unreleased CIA information.”
The FBI and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on the upcoming deadline.
‘It’s time to let the people know the truth’
Two Republican lawmakers said they intend to push the administration to release the full archives.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have unveiled legislation urging full compliance with the spirit of the 1992 law.
In an interview with CNN, Jones said his next step would be to reach out to political consultant Roger Stone – an ally of the President and co-author of a book that claims President Lyndon Johnson was at the center of a conspiracy to kill JFK – to lobby Trump personally on full release. Stone is an outspoken advocate for complete disclosure of the Kennedy files.
“I’m going to play that card,” Jones said of reaching out to Stone.
Jones said reading a book by Larry Sabato, a leading researcher into the assassination, sparked his interest in the files and led him to take action. He said he will continue working with his colleagues to drum up public demand for the Kennedy papers. He said there was no justification for the government to withhold some files and called it plain “wrong” to keep information from the public.
“For God’s sake, it’s time to let the people know the truth,” Jones said.
Jones said he was unsure if there would be any major revelation in the remaining files and described the process of studying the assassination as “like a puzzle” where different pieces of information could eventually build a complete story.
Grassley took to Twitter following the two Republicans’ announcement on their efforts, saying it was an example of over-classification.
The full release of the documents would mark the end of a decades-long struggle for researchers to get a hold of all available information, but will certainly not quell the debate over Kennedy’s death.
The US government, via the Warren Commission report, declared Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and without assistance to kill Kennedy before Jack Ruby murdered him while in custody.
The Warren Commission report did little to put alternate theories to rest.
For his part, Jones said he thought others besides Oswald were involved in the murder but that he could not speak to what degree without access to more information.
“My thinking is that there were other individuals and possibly agencies that were complicit,” Jones said.
There has been widespread public speculation and in-depth research about the Kennedy assassination. A Gallup poll in 2013 showed 61% of respondents said more than one person was involved in the shooting and some pointed to the Mafia, the government, the CIA, Cuba and others as playing a role.
Trump himself touted an alternate theory to the Kennedy assassination on the campaign trail last year, when he alleged Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father could have been a part of a plot to kill Kennedy. Trump’s comments were widely criticized.