Biden’s memo

President Biden has finally spoken on the release of records under the JFK Act. In a memo released October 22, 2021, Biden ordered NARA to begin preparation for further releases, including putting the entire JFK Assassination Records Collection online. The memo is available here.

A closer look

The memo is long, specifying lots more paperwork for agencies (primarily the CIA) who want to continue redacting their documents, plus short term, mid term, and long term plans for release of more info. The schedule reflects recommendations from the National Archivist. The plans include:

Short term: an interim release of text that agencies have not already proposed for postponement. This will happen by 15 December 2021. Mid term: release of redactions that do not pass another NARA review, to be completed by 15 December 2022. Long term: release of the Collection on-line. Deadline for this is sine die; based on correspondence I had earlier this year with NARA, this will take several years.1See my note here.

Some comments

First, the most extensive redactions remaining are the documents and text withheld under Sections 10 and 11 of the JFK Act. President Biden does not mention anything about asking Congress to amend the Act to change this, so these are here to stay. That leaves the 5(g)(2)(D) redactions.2I discussed these in an earlier note here. A page on “withholding” content under the JFK Act is coming soon!

Despite what looks like an impressive 13,000 plus documents that still have 5(g) redactions, most of these documents redact just one or two names, locations, file numbers, whatever. Names withheld are people who are marginal to the assassination story, locations are things like CIA facilities abroad that everyone already knew about, but CIA didn’t want to officially confirm.3For notes that cover these topics see here.

Documents with more extensive redactions are mostly CIA. They include 201 files, mostly for CIA assets, a few of whom are still alive, personnel files for CIA staff, a few of whom are also still alive, and some very miscellaneous materials which I will try to sketch out in a couple of future notes. One set of documents likely to remain redacted: CIA memos responding to ARRB requests or decisions. Some of these are less than 25 years old and I would not be surprised if names redacted in these include a few people who are still current Agency staff and officers.