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JFK Authors on 2017 Records

Message to White House: Full JFK Disclosure in 2017

In an open letter to the White House, a diverse group of JFK authors and investigators are calling on the president's lawyer to endorse complete declassification of thousands of pages of still-secret government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

November 18, 2016

The Hon. W. Neil Eggleston
Counsel to the President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20502

Dear Mr. Eggleston,

October 26, 2017 will mark the 25th anniversary of the JFK Records Act, one of the most successful full disclosure measures in the annals of open government law. We write to ask your support for effective enforcement of the Act now and under the next administration.

The JFK Assassination Records Act was approved unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on October 26, 1992. The Act resulted in the declassification of some 4 million pages of records related to the assassination of President Kennedy. The Act also serves as a model for other open government measures that have made public key chapters in the nation's history without compromising legitimate secrets. As President Obama said in August, "we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency."

The JFK Records Collection is now the single most-requested body of records at National Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Scholars, journalists, historians, and students have found these records invaluable for writing the history of the Cold War, Kennedy's presidency, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Warren Commission, Vietnam, the counterculture, and Watergate.

The final test of the law will come on October 26, 2017. That's when all of the redacted documents in the collection, as well as nearly 3,600 JFK records still withheld in full, are scheduled to be declassified in their entirety. The staff of the National Archives is now preparing for the online release of all material before the statutory deadline, an ambitious goal that we hope will be fulfilled.

One provision of the Act gives federal agencies the right to request continued postponement of JFK records after 2017, if release would result in "identifiable harm" that outweighs the public interest. As authors, historians and investigators, we believe, withholding any portion of any JFK records would result in identifiable harm to the public interest. After 53 years, continuing JFK secrecy would provoke unnecessary suspicion and flout Congress's clear preference for full disclosure within 25 years of 1992. And it would deny the American people access to portions of our history.

We ask you, as White House Counsel, to affirm and uphold the spirit and language of the JFK Records Act, and to instruct all U.S. government agencies to fully release all assassination-related records on or before October 26, 2017.


G. Robert Blakey, general counsel, House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)
Russ Baker, author
Rex Bradford, president, Mary Ferrell Foundation
Deb Conway, publisher, JFK Lancer
Dan Hardway, HSCA investigator
Dan Ellsberg, author
Doug Horne, Assassination Records Review Board analyst
Brian Latell, former CIA Cuba analyst
Jim Lesar, president, Assassination Archives and Research Center
Ed Lopez, HSCA investigator
Joan Mellen, author
Jefferson Morley, author
John Newman, author
Gerald Posner, author
Dick Russell, author
Larry Sabato, author
Peter Dale Scott, author
Phil Shenon, author
Oliver Stone, filmmaker
Anthony Summers, author
Robbyn Swan, author
David Talbot , author
Howard Willens, Warren Commission assistant counsel

How You Can Participate

In anticipation of the scheduled release of JFK records in October 2017, the Mary Ferrell Foundation is ramping up plans to make as many of those records available online as quickly as possible upon their declassification. Interested researchers can help.

Next month we will launch a new project, one aimed at identifying the most important of the fully-withheld and currently-redacted records. In the event that next October's documents are released in paper form only, the list we create will help direct an effort to obtain and put online at MFF the most important records first. You can help us build that list.

Stay turned for an announcement of this project to create such a "high value" documents listing. In the meantime, you can use the JFK Database Explorer to become familiar with what records are going to be part of this release.

For further information about the scheduled 2017 releases and information gleaned from MFF correspondence with the National Archives, see this page.

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