Wednesday, 22 September 2021 05:04

Final Deadlines on JFK Records – What is Biden Going to do?

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Mark Adamczyk highlights the looming final deadlines for the release of the JFK records by the National Archives. He outlines President Joe Biden’s responsibilities as defined by the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act and urges our readers to join him in writing a letter to President Biden asking him to follow the requirements of the law.

The JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (the “JFK Act”) mandated the final release of all assassination records by October 26, 2017. In October of 2017, President Trump publicly committed to authorizing the release of all records, as mandated by the JFK Act. However, on the eve of the October 26, 2017, deadline, President Trump changed course and issued an executive memorandum authorizing an additional delay of six (6) months. We can only assume that agencies protecting these records (namely the CIA and FBI) pressured Trump at the eleventh hour for more time. We will never know exactly what happened. What we do know is that Trump’s executive memorandum was a violation of the JFK Act. At the very least, President Trump was supposed to issue a document that certified the specific reasons for postponement as required by the JFK Act.

After the six (6) month “extension,” agencies were supposed to provide their final reasons for postponement to the President and the Archivist. Compliance with the JFK Act was to be finally accomplished by April 26, 2018. Inexplicably, President Trump then issued another executive memorandum granting agencies an additional three (3) years to “complete” their review of assassination records. This was on the heels of a twenty-five (25) year mandatory review obligation imposed by the JFK Act and then an additional six (6) month period to complete that review.

In that same memorandum of April 26, 2018, the President required final action from agencies by April 26, 2021. By that date, the President required that all information on declassification of JFK Records be delivered to the Archivist. That would, according to the executive memorandum, put the Archivist in the position of making final recommendations to President Biden by September 26, 2021. After receiving recommendations from the Archivist, President Biden would then be in an informed position to authorize a final release by October 26, 2021. That was the plan, at least designed by President Trump in 2018 with legal advice from the Office of Legal Counsel.

What happened instead? We do not know of any action taken by agencies in the three (3) year period between April 2018 and April 2021. We saw no press releases from the Archivist and the President in April 2021 indicating that agencies (protecting these records) did their jobs. We saw no press releases from the Archivist and the President this summer indicating that they were making serious progress, in anticipation of the artificial “deadlines” authorized by President Trump in 2018.

The Archivist is not to blame here. I sincerely believe that the Archivist wants to see these records released. These records are based on an event that happened in 1963. The problem is that the Archivist is a custodian of records and does not have the authority under the JFK Act to compel the release of assassination records. Only the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) had that power under the JFK Act, but unfortunately the ARRB only had authority and funding through 1998.

Congressional oversight committees had authority to ensure compliance with the JFK Act after the winding-down of the ARRB. Those committees have done nothing that we know of, despite receiving correspondence from lawyers and researchers interested in compliance with the JFK Act. At this stage, President Biden has the authority to ensure compliance. President Biden should no longer entertain continuing and stale requests from agencies to postpone assassination records. In order to do his job under the JFK Act, a federal statute, President Biden needs legitimate and transparent reasons from agencies for continued postponement. If the President receives that information, he can then make an executive decision on continued postponement. If the President authorizes postponement of more records, it must be accompanied by a written and unclassified certification of the reason(s). That is what the JFK Act requires. Vague explanations based on “national security” do not come close to meeting the standards of the JFK Act.

Congress declared that continued classification of records would be warranted in only “the rarest of circumstances.” That was in 1992, almost 30 years after the assassination. We are now almost 30 years after the passage of the JFK Act, and almost 60 years after the assassination itself.

I recently signed a letter and legal memorandum to President Biden expressing the importance of this issue. That document can be viewed here. I strongly encourage you to contact the White House with a simple request. Follow the law. Stop the delays based on unfounded (and undisclosed) arguments from agencies that wish to continue hiding these records.

This effort is not about proving a conspiracy or validating the previous findings of the Warren Commission or House Select Committee on Assassinations. It is about following the law, which was passed by Congress in 1992. It is worth noting that Joe Biden was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the JFK Act was passed by Congress in 1992. The executive branch recently authorized the release of 9/11 records and it has the same chance to earn trust from the American public by authorizing the release of the JFK records. It should not be a difficult decision. It is what the law requires.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 05:29
Mark Adamczyk

Mark E. Adamczyk is an attorney from Naples, Florida.  Mark is a graduate of Tulane University and Florida State University College of Law.  For the past 20 years, Mark has been studying the JFK assassination and related United States history.  Mark's recent focus has been the JFK Records Collection Act, the federal law that guarantees the public disclosure of the history surrounding the JFK assassination.  Mark is dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. Government complies with its remaining obligations under the JFK Records Collections Act.

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