BY BILL KELLY
The National Archives today refused the request of a Washington non-profit public interest group to declassify secret records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in time for the 50th anniversary of that tragic event in 2013 (see attached 6/12/12 letter of Gary Stern, General Counsel of the National Archives). The Archives reversed a commitment by Assistant Archivist Michael Kurtz made at an Archives public forum in 2010 at which time he stated the remaining secret Kennedy assassination records would be released by the end of 2013. The Archives today says that Kurtz “misspoke” when he made that commitment to the public.
Kurtz’s promise to process the secret JFK related documents fulfilled President Obama’s expressed desire that his administration be the most open in history. Today’s reversal of release of these records defeats President Obama’s pledge that his be the most open administration in history.
The National Archives states that it does not know the extent of secret files in its collection related to the Kennedy assassination, but that CIA is withholding 1,171 classified documents related to the assassination. The Archives acknowledges that in 2006 the CIA speeded up releases of documents with releases dates through 2010, but that CIA declines to do so for the remaining documents due to “logistical requirements” even though, according to the National Archives, only 1,171 CIA documents of undetermined volume remain to be declassified.
The request for release of the secret documents was made by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a Washington, D.C. non-profit public interest group in a letter signed by several of its board members and attorneys Mark Zaid, Charles Sanders and Prof. G. Robert Blakey, who served as the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The letter made the point that the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in 2013 will result in widespread discussion and news coverage, and that the government documents related to the assassination should be made public in order for a fully informed discussion.
DC FOIA Attorney Dan Alcorn says:
“Researchers have started an online petition to obtain release of secret files related to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. In 2010 Asst. Archivist of the United States Michael Kurtz promised researchers that the secret records would be processed by the end of 2013 as part of the government's effort to declassify hundreds of millions of secret files. Recently the Archives reversed Kurtz' commitment, claiming that he had misspoken, and instead the Archives has informed researchers that the secret JFK files will not be processed for release until 2017 at the earliest. It is possible the files will remain secretly indefinitely.”
“Researchers are seeking release of Kennedy assassination files before the 50th anniversary of that tragic event in November 2013. The JFK assassination has been the subject of repeated government investigations and books and other literary treatments that have come to conflicting conclusions about the assassination. The American public by large majority believes the JFK assassination was the result of a conspiracy, while the official Warren Commission report in 1964 asserted that the assassination was the act of a lone gunman. Researchers believe that 50 years of government secrecy surrounding the topic is enough, and that all the records should be released before the 50th anniversary. Researchers assert that the interests of the United States would be best served by full transparency on the topic in 2013 rather than have the anniversary occur amid charges of secrecy and cover up. The issue is whether the government today can be open and transparent on the violent removal of a President in 1963.”