Sunday marks the 57th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and nearly six decades on, fascination still abounds over the details of one of the 20th century’s landmark events.
The 35th American president was fatally shot by Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after midday on Friday November 22 1963 while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas.
Footage of him in the car with his wife Jaqueline and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, has gone down in history as one of the iconic images of the age.
Most of the documents related to the killing were made publicly available under the 1992 John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, which mandated that all the material be made public 25 years later, by October 26, 2017.
However, President Donald Trump yielded to concerns by U.S. national security and intelligence agencies. He allowed the National Archives to release a small percentage of the total—around 3,000 documents. A much larger batch was withheld at the request of the CIA because more time was needed to review the documents.
In a presidential memo, Trump said the move was “to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs.” According to the National Archives, some 15,834 of the files still contain redactions and 520 remain unreleased in full.
In April 2018, it said that a decision about the material must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 “to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.” This means that their fate will fall within the purview of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“There’s optimism that the Biden administration will finally comply with the JFK Records Act to override expected further obstructionism of U.S. intelligence agencies and fully release all documents,” said Russ Baker, a journalist and Kennedy expert who is the founder of the news website WhoWhatWhy.org.
“He actually just needs to do nothing at all. By law, all documents must be released in full, with no redactions, by October 26, 2021,” Baker told Newsweek.
He said although a lot is known about the assassination and the batch of unreleased documents was not the only source of information on the historic event, it was important that they come out.
“Given the ability of those who control them to determine what comes out, they are hardly the ultimate word,” he said, adding, “in this age of Trump and fake news, the importance of objective truth has become paramount.
“We can clearly see the need for a more nuanced discussion about conspiracy theories, those with no basis and those grounded in facts, and the role journalism can play in this discussion,” he added.
Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation said it was of the “utmost importance” that all Kennedy assassination-related records are disclosed.
“The American people have the right to know all the facts and circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination. The notion that national security will be threatened by the disclosure of records that are almost 60 years old is laughable,” he told Newsweek.
However, he does expect that Biden will “defer to the wishes of the CIA and the rest of the national security establishment.”
“If another extension for secrecy is sought in October 2021, and I believe that such an extension will be sought, Biden will grant the request,” he said. Newsweek has contacted the Biden transition team and the White House for comment.