In a statement on Friday, the White House announced that long-classified documents regarding the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy “shall be withheld from full public disclosure” until Dec. 15, 2022 — over 59 years after Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas.
According to CBS News, despite federal law which mandates all records on the event “should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination,” Biden said the federal archivist needs one more year to make appropriate redactions to minimize “identifiable harm.”
While former President Donald Trump released several thousand pages of files under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, he held back others, citing national security concerns.
According to a Friday statement from Biden, the federal government has been reviewing these redactions since 2018. They apparently need more time, because this is the federal government under the Biden administration and did we, like, expect them to do their job in an expedient manner?
The statement noted the act allowed a postponement of record release when it “remains necessary to protect against an 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 disclosure.”
It went on to say that the national archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration said “unfortunately, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the agencies” and that NARA “require[s] additional time to engage with the agencies and to conduct research within the larger collection to maximize the amount of information released.”
The archivist added that “making these decisions is a matter that requires a professional, scholarly, and orderly process; not decisions or releases made in haste” and recommended Biden “temporarily certify the continued withholding of all of the information certified in 2018” and “direct two public releases of the information that has” eventually “been determined to be appropriate for release to the public.”
We’re already a good four years past the deadline from the federal government to turn in the assignment, so to speak. The JFK Act is clear: “Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”
The only exceptions are, of course, if the records cause “identifiable harm” and that harm is “of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.” Well, whaddya know …
What do you think the early odds are that this information actually comes out next December?Anyone? Do you think we’re going to see what the federal government has been sitting on all these years, or are we going to be reading a statement about how the Omega-Sigma variant of SARS-CoV-2 knocked NARA off its schedule again and that it’ll be ready next year, pinky-swear?
If there’s an actual betting market on this one, my money is going on the latter. I mean that literally — as long as it’s legal to do so, my proceeds from writing this story (and then some) will be plunked down on a bet that these files won’t see the light of day on Dec. 15, 2022.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet the only way this these files see the light under a Biden administration is if Hunter Biden stays clean, paints a mural in the Gaza Strip so moving that Israel and Palestine hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” works his way up the political ladder and then gets elected president in another decade or so. Generally speaking, that’s not the kind of futures bet that bookmakers allow, so I’ll stick to what I can get.
In 1964, 10 months after the assassination, the Warren Commission delivered a report which found Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter and acted alone when he allegedly killed Kennedy. In 1978, a House Panel concluded JFK “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” but that it was “unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy,” according to The New York Times.
These diverging narratives have turned theorizing about JFK’s assassination into a low-level national pastime.
I happen to be on team Warren Commission; despite no lack of effort, the 58 intervening years since the assassination has produced as many credible suspects for a second shooter or co-conspirators as O.J. Simpson’s hunt for the real killers has produced credible alternate suspects for the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. (How is that going, by the way? I haven’t heard many updates from the Juice lately.)
However, the fact the U.S. government jealously guards documents regarding an assassination that’s now well over a half-century old feeds into fever dreams like Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.”
In the most famous scene from the movie, Kevin Costner’s character — Louisiana district attorney Jim Garrison, a colorful-yet-outré JFK conspiracy theorist who became the only prosecutor to try a case related to the assassination — tries to explain why the Zapruder film proved there had to be more than one shooter. Instead, Costner ensured “back and to the left, back and to the left” would become a running joke about conspiracy theorists for decades to come:
Never mind that the “back and to the left” theory has been debunked. The point is, perhaps you believe in the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s slaying. Perhaps you’re like me and you’re tired of them. Either way, the fact the government refuses to release information on the assassination that’s the better part of a century old doesn’t help matters, whatever you believe.
Perhaps the documents will contain embarrassing revelations about Cuba — originally suspected of being behind the assassination by many and a country the Biden administration would like to make nice with now. That’s my best (and only) guess on the matter. If I don’t end up with an inbox of other theories, I’ll be disappointed.
The point is, however, that this speculation only persists the longer that the government holds on to documents legally required to be released four years ago, and which should have been in the public domain for far longer.
The baffling part about this decision is that the White House is both creating and enabling a whole army of laptop Jim Garrisons. For an administration that seems unusually concerned about conspiracy theorists in other areas, usually when they concern conservatives, one might think they would consider this a pretty significant “identifiable harm.”