What Happened Thursday to the JFK Records?

JFK, document, FBI
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from National Archives (PDF) and FBI / Wikimedia.

What happened on Thursday, October 26, with the JFK records scheduled for release under the JFK Records Act? A travesty. Most news reports correctly noted the release of about 2,800 documents, but added that only a few were held back, in some cases saying “300 documents” remain withheld (see CNN, and Washington Post for example). They are off by a factor of 100. In fact, tens of thousands of documents, possibly as many as 30,000, remain sealed at the National Archives.

If President Donald Trump had gone golfing at Mar-A-Lago and done absolutely nothing on Thursday, the National Archives (NARA) would have released all documents, as it was set to do. See the relevant language in the Assassination Records Review Board’s Final Report, quoting from the 1992 JFK Records Act.

This includes 3,147 “withheld in full” records never seen, and an unknown number of redacted documents estimated at about 30,000. Intensely lobbied by federal agencies including the CIA, Trump instead authorized the withholding of well over 90% of these documents. 52 of the 3,147 withheld-in-full records were released and put online by NARA, less than 2%, and 2,839 of the redacted documents were released, which is probably less than 10% of that set.

From the public metadata available for all these records, it’s clear that the most-desired records were held back. Still withheld-in-full records among the 98% of those still withheld include, for example:

* Still-withheld Church Committee interview transcripts not included in the 1990s releases, including one with none other than CIA CounterIntelligence chief James Angleton.

* Lengthy CIA files on officers who played a role in Castro assassination plotting and/or the JFK story, including William Harvey, David Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, James O’Connell, Richard Synder, and several others.

* A 167-page CIA document on Valeriy Kostikov, the Soviet agent stationed in Mexico whose name was used as part of the “World War III” scenario that the Warren Commission we now know was created to push back against.

* An interview the House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted with Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner who told the Committee that Oswald was an FBI informant and he often saw Oswald in the company of a particular FBI agent.

and many many more.

Additionally, many of the documents released online Thursday featured redactions — blacked out areas. In at least one case, the very same document has been available in fully unredacted form at the National Archives for more than 10 years. See the newly released version and compare to the MFF online version. These are two different copies of the same document held by different agencies, so perhaps one being redacted and the other not is just an accident. But why are there any redactions at all in the new copy? It is as yet unclear why so many redactions appear in what are supposed to be fully released records.

In a White House press release, President Trump announced “I am ordering today that the veil be finally lifted.” In fact, no such order was given or was necessary. The JFK Records Act mandated full disclosure by Thursday as a matter of law, with the only mechanism for holding anything back being a presidential certification that “continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations” AND “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.” (see ARRB Final Report).

What happens next? According to the White House, there will be a review process over the next six months. By April 26, 2018, a further determination will be made as to whether full disclosure will occur, or more secrecy. Watch this space. Call your congressperson.

For more on these records, how to find online those which have been released, and links to essays discussing them, see the 2017 Document Releases project here at MFF.

Rex Bradford is the President of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, whose website hosts the largest searchable online collection of JFK assassination records.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Rex Bradford (C-SPAN) and National Archives (Bossi / Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0).

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9 responses to “What Happened Thursday to the JFK Records?”

  1. danny j says:

    Thanks, Russ, Rex and WWW. I have seen no other “news” site make clear that there were supposed to be some 30,000 documents fully released. They’re all passing the BS that “only” 300 were withheld.

    In fact, that could be a good metric by which to judge which media are truly independent and which are either controlled opposition or simply aggregating MSM sources. And even if they’re aggregating, they should remember the 30,000 figure cited a few months ago.

  2. hipocampelofantocame says:

    It is not possible to release the records of JFK’s assassination any more than the records
    of 9/11. The American populus would not be able to accept the truth, and great harm
    would come to pass. It has nothing to do with the media, but rather the real government.
    Both of these disasters are inconsequential to them. Their agenda rules; not the “folks”.
    Sit tight and see what other indignities are foisted on you, and get used to it.

  3. icthelite says:

    Well, I guess this POTUS is finally toeing the line. Records were suppose to be opened last Thursday but really what happened was nothing. I guess the truth of JFK’s murder is something Mr. Trump feels we shouldn’t be made aware of.

  4. weilunion says:

    Please, Trump cares little about JFK; this is an attempt to confuse and obfuscate. The argument he was forced to back down is simply an assumption. More likely, his operatives like Bannon who often steal ‘left’ thunder is behind this ruse.

  5. Lawrence Schnapf says:

    I have created hashtags for the response of the media. #JFKFakeNews #MassMediaJFKLies

  6. Domenico says:

    Thank you Russ Baker. You’re another soldier of the truth! Sharing this article with many friends.

  7. cashmagnet says:

    “…It is as yet unclear why so many redactions appear in what are supposed to be fully released records….”

    That has to be the most ignorant remark I’ve ever read in an opinion piece about an BLATANT cover-up…

    Why do you THINK so many portions of the report are blacked out ?

    If everyone knew, for instance, who killed JFK (or RFK, or Karen Silkwood or our first Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, et al) the gangster nature of our government would be obvious even to the dumbest among us, and the entire system would disintegrate – a consequence which must be avoided at all costs according to the jackasses who are running it, n’est’ce pas???

    End,

    Clifford

    Sta. Monica

  8. travis690 says:

    On Friday, October 27, the “leaders” of the CIA, FBI, and any other agencies wanting these files held back should have been required to explain in public under oath what they are still hiding. They have had over 6,000 days since the law was passed to do their dirty work with the files; why do they still need more time?

    Surely it can’t be due to some Soviet threat; the Soviet Union had ceased to exist when the law requiring the release of these documents was passed and signed by George H W Bush.

    Surely it can’t be because Fidel Castro decided to make a threatening call to President Trump, since he is now worm-food.

    In my opinion, the CIA should have been dismantled at the same time as the Soviet Union. It was started to combat the Soviet threat. Since that no longer existed, it has now passed its use-by date.

  9. […] typically noted that 2,800 documents had been released and 300 remain withheld. However, writes Rex Bradford, “They are off by a factor of […]