WASHINGTON (AP/CBSDFW) — President Donald Trump is delaying the release of some files on the John Kennedy assassination that were due to come out Thursday. He’s approved 2,800 other records for release.
White House officials say Trump will state in a coming memo that he had “no choice” but to keep others secret because of national security concerns. He’s having those records further reviewed for the next six months.
Officials say Trump will impress upon federal agencies that JFK files should stay secret after the six-month review “only in the rarest cases.”
Last minute lobbying by various agencies of the U.S. government delayed the release of the files, CBS News reported earlier Thursday.
According to sources close to CBS News, agencies throughout the government including the CIA and FBI requested that President Trump hold off on releasing some of the documents.
CBS News reports that there is concern over documents created in the 1990’s, when the congressional committee was crafting legislation setting Thursday as the date of the release. Also, multiple officials from multiple agencies say they are concerned that some of the documents could reveal sources and operations of current people and other operations.
No blockbusters were expected in the last trove of secret files from Kennedy’s assassination Nov. 22, 1963, given a statement months ago by the Archives that it assumed the records, then under preparation, would be “tangential” to what’s known about the killing.
But for historians, it’s a chance to answer lingering questions, put some unfounded conspiracy theories to rest, perhaps give life to other theories — or none of that, if the material adds little to the record.
Interest in the release is intense, and it’s possible that as this chapter of history comes alive, it might quickly fall back into temporary invisibility. Servers are bound to be stressed by people looking for the online-only files. Some non-government websites specializing in JFK records were difficult to access Thursday morning, before anything came out.
Experts say the publication of the last trove of evidence could help allay suspicions of a conspiracy — at least for some.
The collection includes more than 3,100 documents — comprising hundreds of thousands of pages — that have never been seen by the public. About 30,000 documents were released previously — with redactions.
Whatever details are released, they’re not expected to give a definitive answer to a question that still lingers for some: Whether anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the assassination.
The Warren Commission in 1964 reported that Oswald had been the lone gunman, and another congressional probe in 1979 found no evidence to support the theory that the CIA had been involved. But other interpretations, some more creative than others, have persisted.
The 1992 law mandating release of the JFK documents states that all the files “shall be publicly disclosed in full” within 25 years — that means by Thursday — unless the president certified that “continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense; intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations,” which President Trump did late Thursday.
The law didn’t allow the president, for example, to hold some records back because they might be embarrassing to agencies or people.
“In any release of this size, there always are embarrassing details,” said Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Rice University.
The law does not specify penalties for noncompliance, saying only that House and Senate committees are responsible for oversight of the collection.
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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)