The JFK Assassination Records Collection

The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (ARC) was established by act of the United States Congress on October 26, 1992. The purpose of the Collection is to gather and preserve as much documentary material as possible, both government and private, on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The law creating the collection, the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act (ARCA), designated the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) as the agency responsible for holding and preserving the collection

The Collection is now housed at NARA’s College Park facility and includes the files of all government investigations of the assassination, and most of the physical evidence in the case. NARA currently estimates that the Collection includes over 300,000 documents, with approximately 5 million pages.

Much of this material was produced by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA, and includes sensitive information such as the names of informants and methods of gathering intelligences.

Despite the sensitivity of this information, the ARCA called for the documents to be made public as soon as possible. The release of these documents was overseen by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), an independent federal agency created by the ARCA. It was largely through the efforts of the Board that the Collection was assembled and most of the information in the Collection released to the public.

In cases where the ARRB believed that further withholding of information in the Collection was necessary under the criteria of the ARCA, they granted “postponements” for these passages, withholding them from the public for periods ranging from months to years.

In these cases, the ARCA mandated a final deadline for release of the complete text of collection documents: 25 years after the ARCA was signed into law. This deadline was reached on October 27, 2017.

There were, however, several categories of documents that were exempt from this deadline, including tax documents, federal grand jury testimony, and documents deeded as gifts to the federal library system. According to NARA, there are 520 such documents in the Collection. These documents will not be released. This count excludes the autopsy photos and x-rays of President Kennedy, which were deeded by the Kennedy family to NARA, and will also not be made public.

In addition to the statutory exemptions listed above, the ARCA permitted the President to extend the deadline where information in the collection would present “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations,” and where this harm “outweighed the public interest in disclosure.”

In the final release of information from the Collection on April 26, 2018, President Trump granted exemptions for numerous passages. According to NARA, there remain 15,834 documents that have not yet been released in full.

Although the main releases are now over, I remain very interested in this fascinating documentary collection, and intend to keep posting on the subject. My posts are under the JFK ARC and ARRB categories of these website. I will probably move these to a separate website some time in the future.