Will President Trump enforce the law when it comes to JFK assassination files later this month?
That’s the question the Mary Ferrell Foundation put to National Archivists David Ferriero in a March 12 letter.
By law all of the government’s JFK files are supposed to made public on April 26 but the CIA, FBI and other agencies have the right to request continued postponement of specific records.
I expect that these agencies will seek to withhold lots of JFK files from public view. The question is, Will Trump let them?
There’s a simple test of Trump’s seriousness:
Do the JFK records that the CIA (or other government agency) seek to withhold from public view contain an explanation of why the government wants to keep them secret?
According to Trump’s October 26, 2017 memo on the JFK files, the CIA (or any other agency that seeks postponed release of JFK records) must
report to the Archivist of the United States (Archivist) on the specific information within particular records that meets the standard for continued postponement under section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act. Thereafter, the Archivist shall recommend to me, no later than March 26, 2018, whether the specific information within particular records identified by agencies warrants continued withholding from public disclosure after April 26, 2018.
With this language, Trump set a high standard.
Section 5 (g) (2) (D) (i) and (ii) of the 1992 JFK Records Act requires any postponement to be justified by “identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; an (ii) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
As the Foundation president Rex Bradford points out the March 12 letter, “The failure to provide explanation for the current postponements constitutes non-compliance with the Act.”
And, the law is clear that the CIA and other agencies must present a separate finding for each postponed document.
If the JFK files released later this month do not carry individual explanations for why passages or pages have been redacted, the Trump administration is not enforcing the law and the CIA is not obeying it.
Here’s the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s March 12 letter to Archivist David Ferriero.