In response to 11 comments calling on the National Declassification Center blog calling on the NDC to make the declassification of JFK records a priority, archivist Don McIlwain has a familiar message.
It is not possible, he says.
“With a very few exceptions, virtually all of the records identified as belonging to the Kennedy Collection have been opened in part or in full. Those documents that are closed in full or in part were done so in accordance with the Kennedy Act, mentioned above. According to the Act, no record could be withheld in part or in full, without the agreement of the ARRB. The guidelines for withholding records are outlined in the provisions in Section 6 of the Act. The full report of the ARRB is available online. A copy of the Act is in Adobe Acrobat PDF, Appendix C of the ARRB Report mentioned above. In all cases where the ARRB agreed to withhold a record or information in a record, they stipulated a specific release date for the document. In addition, according to Section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act, all records in the Kennedy Collection will be opened by 2017 unless certified as justifiably closed by the President of the United States.”
I appreciate the work that McIlwain and his colleagues do in maintaining and enhancing the JFK Assassination Records Collection, which has revolutionized scholarship of the Kennedy era. I also understand the Archives does not have unilateral authority to declassify documents generated by the CIA.
But the Archives is under no obligation to minimize the amount of JFK material that remains classified 51 years after the fact. To characterize the 1,100-plus CIA documents (comprising as much as 50,000 pages of material) that have been withheld in full as “very few exceptions,” seems off the mark. True, that is a small percentage of what has been released but by any reckoning a lot of material remains beyond public view.
And there is good reason to doubt the CIA’s claim that these records are “Not Believed Relevant” to the JFK story. See: “Top 7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret” (Nov. 11, 2013).