President Donald Trump said early Saturday that he would allow the release of classified JFK files soon.
“Subject to the receipt of further information,” Trump tweeted. “I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
The president’s somewhat non-committal statement left many wondering if all, some or none of the records would end up getting blocked by “national security interest” claims from government agencies that have fought for decades to keep them secret.
“The President believes that these documents should be made available in the interests of full transparency,” a White House official told reporters later Saturday adding “unless agencies provide a compelling and clear national security or law enforcement justification otherwise.”
The official statement fails in all the same ways as the president’s tweet. The caveat at the end means that there may be some JFK docs that do not see the light of day.
The unexpected tweet and statement on the documents are the direct result of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 which directed the National Archives to create a collection consisting of copies of all government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The law then sets a deadline to make the records public. That deadline is October 26, 2017 – 25 years after the law was enacted.
Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act,
unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that–
(i) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and
(ii) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Those two subclauses are the reason for the hedge by the president and may be exactly what keeps Americans from seeing the collection of historical records.