The move, which follows a postponement ordered by President Donald Trump in 2017, means academics and the public will have to wait even longer to see what remains buried in government records on one of the country’s biggest political mysteries. 20th century. And the process of reviewing the remaining documents means Biden can extend the release if the CIA or other agencies can convince him that they are revealing sensitive sources or methods.
Opinion polls have long indicated that most Americans do not believe the official conclusion of the Warren Commission that the assassination was the work of one gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Navy who once did defected to the Soviet Union and who was shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.
A special House committee in 1978 concluded “on the basis of the evidence before it that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
But long-time researchers almost uniformly agree that what is still out of public view will not open the case.
“Do I believe the CIA has a record that shows former CIA Director Allen Dulles presiding over the assassination?” No. But I’m afraid there are people out there who will believe things like this no matter what’s in the files, âsaid David Kaiser, former professor of history at Naval War College and author of “The Road to Dallas”.
His book argued that the Kennedy murder could not be fully understood without also studying two major US intelligence and law enforcement campaigns of the day: Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s war on organized crime and the unsuccessful efforts of the CIA to kill Communist dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba (with helpers).
Still, Kaiser and other experts believe national security agencies are still withholding information that shows how officials actively blocked full accounting by Congress and the courts and could shed light on dark figures in the spy world who allegedly may have been involved in a plot to kill the president.
What is still hidden?
According to the National Archives, parts of more than 15,000 documents that have been published remain blacked out, in some cases a single word but in others almost the entire document.
The records were collected by the Assassination Records Review Board, which was established by Congress in the JFK Records Act of 1992.
The independent body, which closed in 1998, was headed by a federal judge and empowered to collect classified information from across government that could affect Kennedy’s murder and make it public as much as possible. after consulting with the agencies from which the information came. He also had the legal authority to override recalcitrant agencies.
Much of the JFK collection comes from the investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, which investigated the murders of President Kennedy and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. The panel also attended looked at a series of US intelligence and laws. law enforcement activities in the early decades of the Cold War as part of its investigation.
The creation of the review board ultimately led to the release of thousands of cases. But the board also postponed the release of other documents until 2017, when Trump used his authority to further delay full public disclosure.
Much of what has yet to be released concerns intelligence activity during the height of the Cold War that likely had no direct bearing on the plot to kill Kennedy, but could shed light on covert operations .
Heavily censored case involves a CIA plot to kill Castro. Another is a 1963 Pentagon plan for “artificial provocation” that could be blamed on Castro as a pretext to overthrow him. Then there is the story of the CIA office in Miami, which organized a propaganda campaign against Castro’s Cuba.
Other redacted files are said to contain new CIA information about the 1972 robbery at the Democratic National Committee of the Watergate Hotel in Washington by former CIA agents that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
But some could say more about the events leading up to the assassination itself.
Researchers are keenly interested in the personal file of the late George Joannides, a career CIA intelligence officer who, according to House Inquiry staff in the late 1970s, lied to Congress about it. he knew of a group of CIA-backed exiles who had ties to Oswald.
In 2018, a federal appeals court upheld the CIA’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by researcher Jefferson Morley to obtain the case.
Another partially released file contains information about how the CIA was able to monitor Oswald on a trip he allegedly made to Mexico City before the assassination.
The files could reveal more of “what the CIA was doing in New Orleans, some additional information about Mexico City and possibly even revelations about the CIA’s role in Watergate,” said Larry Schnapf, attorney and assassination researcher.
Morley, who has filed multiple lawsuits to force disclosure, believes the CIA is covering up for people who may have played a role in Kennedy’s death or who knew who was responsible and wanted to hide it from the public to protect the agency.
He says the CIA’s refusal to comply “can only be interpreted as evidence of bad faith, malicious intent and obstruction of Congress.”
A CIA spokesperson, who represents the majority of the documents withheld, declined to answer the charge, saying only that the agency would comply with the law and the president’s directive.
When will the secret files be revealed?
Biden triggered the release of some of the remaining recordings.
“Any information currently withheld from public disclosure that the agencies have not offered for an extended postponement will be reviewed by NARA by December 15, 2021 and will be made public on that date,” the note said.
He also ordered the National Archives to conduct a “thorough review” of each remaining editorial over the following year to ensure that the United States government maximizes transparency, by disclosing all information in the files. concerning the assassination, except when the most solid reasons advise it.
But that means the CIA and other agencies can still convince Biden to further delay the release of certain documents.
A coalition of legal experts and academics claim that Trump and now Biden flouted the 1992 law that put in place the disclosure process.
They argue in a legal memo that the legislation has established a “strict process and legal standard for delaying the release of a case” that requires the president to certify why a single case is withheld.
“Congress has drawn up a shortlist of specific reasons that federal agencies could cite as a basis for requesting the postponement of public disclosure of the assassination records,” they advised Biden last month. âA government office requesting a postponement was required to specify, for each file for which postponement was requested, the applicable grounds for postponement. “
Schnapf plans to take legal action on Monday to obtain copies of the underlying communications that led to successive presidents’ decision to postpone the release of so many documents.
The Public Interest Declassification Board, a bipartisan advisory group appointed by the president and congressional leaders, called on Biden last month to limit the postponement to the “absolute minimum,” noting that “we understand the agencies are asking you to extend the postponement. public disclosure of parts of many documents subject to JFK law.
The board said it believed disclosure after all these years “would strengthen the confidence of the American people in their government.”
Board chairman Ezra Cohen, the former acting deputy secretary of defense for intelligence, called Biden’s memo “a step in the right direction,” but “we’ll know more about the implementation of agencies and archives in December “.
âIn the short term,â he added, âthe archivist will have to work hard to keep the agencies on track with the advice of the president. ”
Schnapf said Congress may have to intervene if military and intelligence agencies continue to delay full disclosure.
He pointed out that with the expiration of the JFK Case Review Board, there is no authority other than Biden that can overcome the “type of blockage, delay and excessive secrecy that led to the enactment of the JFK law in the first place “.
âTrump gave the agencies three and a half yearsâ¦ and yet full disclosure has not been obtained,â he added. âThis is not a conspiracy but respect for the law. There is broad bipartisan support for the rest of the records to be released. These documents will reveal important secrets about the history of our country. When President Biden agreed to release the 9/11 records, he said 20 years was quite a long time. How about 58 years old?