Bill Kelly on the ARCA

[First posted on May 28, 2018, at]

The JFK Assassination Records Collection Act (ARCA) is the law that established the massive JFK Assassination Records Collection (ARC) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). As federal law, the record of its enactment is about as public as you can get. Yet the passage of time, and ignorance of the basic law-making process, can confuse even something as transparent and public as this.

A recent post at JFKcountercoup, a blog owned by Bill Kelly, is an example of this (here). According to Kelly:

The law [the ARCA] prescribed that all of the government records on the assassination of President Kennedy be released in full to the public by October 26, 2017, twenty-five years to the day Bush signed it into law. When he signed it however, Bush added a rider to the law that provided the President – and only the President, with the authority to continue withholding certain records beyond the October 26, 2017 date on the grounds of national security, where their release would harm American interests.

It was of course impossible for President Bush to change a bill after it was passed by Congress. A federal law in the United States must first be passed by both Houses of Congress. It then comes to the President, and he can either sign it into law, or refuse to sign it, an act called vetoing. The President cannot rewrite a bill that Congress has passed and then sign it into law.

I learned this as a school child in the United States. I don’t understand how Kelly did not. Where Kelly got this idea is not important, but to actually publish this claim on his blog shows surprising ignorance of how laws are made in the United States Congress. Kelly frequently posts on the ARC and his posts are referenced at websites such as Mary Ferrell, so this error is worth a note.

The real legislative history of the ARCA is clearly described in the Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board. 1 Summarizing, the ARCA was introduced in Congress as a joint resolution (H.J.Res 454/S.J.Res 282). After hearings and reports, the Senate passed a revised version of the bill on July 27, 1992. The House passed the Senate version on September 30, and it was signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 1992. The only thing that Bush added to the bill was his signature.

  1. Final Report, 6-7. Mary Ferrell has a copy of the final report here, NARA has a copy here.