Biden postponed a promised release of the thousands of government mysteries that might emit shine on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
After a review by the National Archives, which meant that even if scholars were to obtain a release order from a federal judge, they still must obtain individual clearance from the CIA and other agencies.
Biden has cited thousands of records still being assessed for declassification. Still, he also acknowledged in his memo Friday that “the intelligence community opposed” his October 2017 decision to release the records.
The new delay gives him until May 2 to make a decision. Biden had vowed to make the JFK records public before the end of his term in January 2021, which would have been timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth. He did not say whether he would meet that deadline.
And some scholars and researchers already had expressed anger at Biden after he delayed the release again last year.
“This is a massive violation of the public trust,” Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter who has sued the CIA for its records about the JFK assassination, said last October. “The CIA is making a mockery of Biden’s pledge.”
Morley earned the gratitude of historians when he sued unsuccessfully for the release of CIA records from an agency program known as MK-Ultra that was designed to develop and test mind control and interrogation techniques.
The CIA claimed the Kennedy records might also include material on the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was killed in what the agency described as a “premeditated murder” in 1963. The agency, however, did not refer to any specific evidence that might show direct links between the CIA and Diem’s death.
But other researchers say they are worried by the secrecy. “I don’t think we know what we don’t know, and what we don’t know is worrisome,” said John Tunheim, a former U.S. attorney who oversaw the 1992 investigation into Dallas police corruption.
“I am concerned that when the full set of records are released, they will reveal details that are not already in the public domain that historians or the public have not fully vetted.”
Tunheim was also a member of President George H.W. Bush’s commission in 1992 to investigate the assassination, which concluded that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, likely organized by the (Mafia), but the assassination was probably not organized by any one group or any one person.”
Kaiser, the Naval War College historian, believes the longer the secrecy persists, the more it will fuel conspiracy theories.
“What are they hiding? That’s always the question,” he said. “Every time they delay these releases, it fuels that suspicion.”
Kaiser and other authorities consider national security companies are still hiding data that explains how executives actively stonewalled a complete accounting by Congress and the governments and might clarify dark spy realm values who could have been included in a plan to shoot the president.
Biden has had second thoughts about his decision to postpone the release of the JFK records in October 2017 and then gave top aides and advisors several weeks to try and talk him out of making another delay.
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