President Donald Trump on Thursday delayed the full release of JFK assassination records until at the latest 2021, siding with the CIA and FBI over national security concerns that the release of the remaining files could spark.
“I agree with the Archivist’s recommendation that the continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Trump wrote in a memorandum released by the White House.
Trump added that need for the continued protection of the documents, “can only grow weaker with the passage of time.”
For now though, the decision to grant additional delays means the president has backtracked from his promise last October. At the time, Trump wrote on Twitter “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
The full release of the remaining records related to the JFK assassination was signed into law in 1992 by then-President George H.W. Bush. As POLITICO previously reported, the law ordered the immediate release of thousands of documents and set a 25-year deadline for the release of 3,100 unreleased documents and the full, unredacted versions of 30,000 pages already mad public. The 25-year window ran out last year, but the law does give the opportunity for extensions to be granted for concerns, like national security reasons.
The memo coincided with the National Archives release of over 19,000 documents, the final release in accordance with Trump’s directive from last year. According to the archives, 520 documents remain withheld in full and were not subject to the 25-year requirement and 15,834 documents are still redacted, although less so then they were as of October 2017.
Last October, Trump gave the FBI and CIA until Thursday to re-review the remaining files. The White House memo released Thursday said those agencies are also instructed to re-review those redactions over the next three years.
The 1992 law came amid a public outcry after the Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-filled “JFK,” which went on to win an Academy Award. Despite multiple government inquires into the assassination, there remains a fervent base of people who feel JFK’s death was the result of a conspiracy.