Why The NARA Secrecy Over The Secret JFK Records?

Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

For some unknown reason, there seems to be some secrecy on the part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over the still-secret 58-year-old records of the CIA and other federal agencies relating to the Kennedy assassination.

On July 29, 2021, I submitted the following request for information through the NARA website:

Would you please advise me whether any federal agencies, especially the CIA, have expressed an interest in seeking an extension of time for continued secrecy with respect to the JFK records that are set to be released in October?

On August 10, I received the following email from NARA:

Dear Mr. Jacob Hornberger,

After looking into your request, we are able to confirm that at this time NARA and other federal agencies are in the process of reviewing JFK assassination records in accordance with the requirements of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 and the April 26, 2018, Presidential Memorandum on Certification for Certain Records Related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Similar to the 2017-2018 release, NARA plans to make the releasable records from the 2021 review available on the National Archives website.  More details will be communicated as updates arrive.

Sincerely,
Ashney Randle
Special Access & FOIA Program

On August 10, I sent the following email to Ms. Randle:

Dear Ms. Randle,

Thank you for your email. It provides interesting information, for which I am appreciative.

Unfortunately, however, your email does not answer my question, which is: “Would you please advise me whether any federal agencies, especially the CIA, have expressed an interest in seeking an extension of time for continued secrecy with respect to the JFK records that are set to be released in October?”

Was this an oversight? Or is there some reason why this information has to remain secret?

Thank you for your time and continued attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Jacob Hornberger

On August 10, Ms. Randle sent me the following email:

Dear Mr. Jacob Hornberger,

As we were looking for an answer to your request, unfortunately, this is all the information that the National Archives has concerning the JFK records scheduled for release in October. While we understand this is not an ideal answer to your question, we do know that as updates become available, they will be posted online on the National Archives website.

Sincerely,
Ashney Randle
Special Access & FOIA Program

On August 10, I sent the following email to Ms. Randle:

Dear Ms. Randle,

I refer to the following excerpt from President Trump’s April 18, 2018, memorandum entitled “Certification for Certain Records Related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” (https://fas.org/sgp/trump/jfk-cert.pdf):

“Any agency that seeks further postponement beyond October 26, 2021, shall, no later than April 26, 2021, identify to the Archivist the specific basis for concluding that records (or portions of records) satisfy the standard for continued postponement under section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act. Thereafter, the Archivist shall recommend to the President, no later than September 26, 2021, whether continued withholding from public disclosure of the identified records is warranted after October 26, 2021.”

All I am asking for is whether any agency has, in fact, “identified to the Archivist the specific basis for concluding that records (or portions of records) satisfy the standard for continued postponement” and, if so, the names of such agencies.

It seems to me that disclosing that information, one way or the other, would be a rather simple thing to do. Or is there a reason why such information has to be kept secret?

Thank you for your time and your continued attention to this matter.

Jacob Hornberger

After that email, I failed to receive any more emails from Ms. Randle, and given her last email to me on August 10, I don’t expect to receive a direct answer to my question. (If I do, I will update this blog post.)

That raises the obvious question: Why the secrecy on this particular question? Why not openly and publicly disclose now whether the CIA or other federal agencies have expressed an interest in another extension of time for secrecy of their official JFK assassination-related records? 

Or to be more specific, why not disclose now, openly and publicly, whether “any agency that seeks further postponement beyond October 26, 2021 [has identified] to the Archivist the specific basis for concluding that records (or portions of records) satisfy the standard for continued postponement under section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act.”

It’s one thing to keep the official JFK assassination-related records of the CIA and other federal agencies secret after almost 60 years. But it’s quite another thing to keep secret whether the CIA and other federal agencies have expressed an interest to the National Archives for more years (or decades) of official secrecy of their official assassination-related records.

If NARA were to disclose now whether the CIA and other federal agencies have expressed an interest in seeking more time for secrecy, the American people could begin discussing whether such a request should be granted. They could also be writing op-eds and editorials on the matter. They could be expressing their opinions to the members of Congress as well as to President Biden. Keeping such expressions of interest secret until the last minute leading up to the October 26 deadline naturally tends to suppress such discussions.

Isn’t it bad enough to keep official assassination-related records secret after almost six decades? Doesn’t it just compound the problem when the National Archives keeps secret whether the CIA or other federal agencies have expressed an interest in another extension of time for secrecy?