A memo signed by President Joe Biden on Friday noted that “unfortunately,” the U.S. government will have to further delay the release of records pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.
“Temporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Biden noted in the memo.
Congress declared in 1992 that “all Government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy . . . should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination,” according to the memo. But the congressional action also gave the government some wiggle room, providing permission to delay releases of information to “protect against an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations,” Biden’s memo continued.
The delay in releasing information this year is the result of a declaration by the National Archives and Records Administration, which said that “unfortunately, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the agencies,” Biden wrote.
As such, the agency needs more time to research the remaining materials so as to “maximize the amount of information released,” the memo added.
Now, the release date for the most sensitive information has been pushed back until December 2022. Meanwhile, materials that have already been cleared as “appropriate for release to the public” will be revealed on Dec. 15 of this year.
There have been around 250,000 records released thus far, but in order to see them, the public must drive to NARA’s headquarters in College Park, Md., said the memo. Under Biden’s new order, all records will be digitized.
JFK, as he is popularly known, was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade near Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Former Marine and suspected Communist sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for Kennedy’s murder, but he, too, was shot and killed two days later on live television by a nightclub owner named Jack Ruby as Oswald was being led out of a police station. Ruby passed away in 1967,
The assassination has sparked a number of conspiracy theories and documentaries, as well as films, the most notable of them 1991’s “JFK” by producer Oliver Stone.
The late president’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was also assassinated in June 1968 as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was killed by 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan who was given the death penalty on March 3, 1969. But in 1973, the California Supreme Court vacated all death sentences, and Sirhan has remained in prison since. Sirhan, 77, was granted parole in August but the case is under a 90-day review so his release is not guaranteed. After the review, the recommendation goes to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom who can modify it or reject it outright.
During his term, former President Donald Trump once vowed to have all JFK files declassified, and moved in the latter part of his first year in office to do so, but about 300 of the 3,100 documents he authorized for release were heavily redacted. Ultimately, Trump decided to accept the recommendations of federal intelligence and law enforcement officials to keep the 300 most sensitive documents under wraps.
The following year, 2018, he delayed the full release of all documents until this year.
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