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Biden's October Deadline

President Joe Biden has a decision to make by October 26 of 2021. Will the remaining blackouts in thousands of JFK records be finally lifted, or will the can be kicked down the road yet again?

According to the National Archives, 15,834 documents in the JFK Collection still feature redactions. About 70% of these are CIA records; the rest come from a variety of agencies and organizations: FBI, Department of Justice, Church Committee, Rockefeller Commission, military agencies, and more. In addition, some records remain withheld in full (many of these are tax records properly withheld, but there are others).

In 2017 and 2018, many documents were released for the first time or had some or all redactions lifted. This came about due to a "sunset clause" in the 1992 John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Connection Act". October 26, 2017 was exactly 25 years after the passage of the Act, which mandated that by after 25 years all records would be released in full, absent presidential decisions that "continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or foreign relations" and "the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure" (see JFK Records Act).

After a six-month review post-October 2017, President Trump issued a memorandum on April 26, 2018, postponing for three additional years the review and possible release of the remaining records. That new deadline is approaching. Chief Archivist of the U.S. David Ferriero is due to make a recommendation to President Biden on September 26, one month before Biden's deadline.

In August of this year, many notable researchers and authors signed a letter to President Biden urging a full release of the records in accordance with the JFK Records Act's language and intent. The Mary Ferrell Foundation fully supports this letter.

An organization known as the Public Interest Declassification Board is also advising President Biden, and has already called on the National Archives to "exercise its authority in the Act to challenge all requests that do not strictly meet the Congress’ intent to release as much information as possible and only postpone the most sensitive records that meet the standards in section 5(g)(2) of the Act." The PIDB apparently will be making its own recommendation directly to the president; the Mary Ferrell Foundation has provided the PIDB with 6 recommendations along with extensive background information. These recommendations are:

1. Apply JFK Records Act standards to the removal of remaining redactions

2. Complete the JFK Collection metadata database

3. Release a list of the 520 Section 10/11 withheld records

4. Locate and verify missing withheld-in-full records

5. Encourage release of special Kennedy interviews and letters

6. Endeavor to get the full JFK Collection online in a timely way

Those with an interest in this matter are encouraged to contact the PIDB, the National Archives, or the White House.

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