While most of the millions of pages of government documents on the assassination of Kennedy, which took place on Nov. 22, 1963, have been made public, several thousand—or 1 percent of them—have been withheld from the public.
Under the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1992, the documents could only be kept secret for 25 years. This time limit is set to expire on Oct. 26, 2017.
However, the act states that the final decision to release the file is the current president’s to make.
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017
“Subject to the receipt of further information” likely refers to the review process that government agencies have been conducting to assess whether the documents contain information that should not be released.
An agency that wants to keep certain documents secret for a longer period of time needs to file a formal appeal with the president.
The fact that Trump is saying he will most likely allow the documents to be released suggests that no government agency has objected.
“The President believes that these documents should be made available in the interests of full transparency unless agencies provide a compelling and clear national security or law enforcement justification otherwise,” a White House official said.
In total, there are over 5 million pages of government documents related to the assassination of Kennedy stored in the National Archives.
According to the National Archives, 88 percent of the documents are open in full to the public, 11 percent are released in part with sensitive parts removed, and 1 percent has remained hidden from the public.
“While NARA cannot comment on the content of the records, we assume that much of what will be released will be tangential to the assassination events,” the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) says on its website.
However, NARA says that while most of the secret documents will be released, there is still a small portion that won’t be.
Documents that discuss grand jury information, certain tax return documents, and records covered by a specific deed or gift, won’t be released.
“We have identified a small number of records, or portions of records, that fit into these categories. For all other records, how long records stay withheld after 2017 will be determined by the President, who has final appeal authority,” the NARA states.