Some JFK assassination files go online, but others delayed

All remaining secret documents on President Kennedy's death were set to be released Thursday, but while thousands are now live, thousands more will be reviewed first.

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Nearly 3,000 documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, previously secret either in part or in full, can now be downloaded and seen by anyone via the National Archives website

Thursday was the deadline for the US government to release the remaining secret files, but as the day drew to a close President Donald Trump said the release of some records will be delayed for another 180 days.


The Kennedys in the presidential car in Dallas on the day of the assassination.

US National Archives

The JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 set Oct. 26, 2017, as the date all records surrounding JFK's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, were to be made public. The National Archives released a batch of records in July and committed to post the rest on its website by the Thursday deadline, but CBS News reports that the CIA, FBI and other agencies lobbied to keep some of the documents out of the public eye. (Disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company.)

Trump told reporters that 2,800 records would be released Thursday night, but thousands more would undergo an additional review before their release. 

"I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted," Trump said in a memo released to reporters. "At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice -- today -- but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation's security." 

According to the law, the president has the final say on whether any of the documents can be withheld beyond the release deadline. 

A CIA spokesperson told CBS the agency welcomes the additional review so it can ensure the identities of CIA assets, current and former CIA officers, as well as relevant intelligence methods and partnerships.

According to the National Archives, 2,891 new files have just been added to its online archive.

Downloading all of them will take some effort, as they're posted as thousands of individual PDFs rather than in big compressed files as the Archives has done in the past. You can email the Archives and request the bulk download files, however. 

The 1992 law was passed following a resurgence of interest in the assassination after the 1991 Oliver Stone movie "JFK" suggested a government conspiracy and coverup was at the heart of the murder. It moved up the release date of records related to the assassination, and Oct. 26 marks the day that all records were to be made public, minus those the president opts to withhold longer.

"The release of these records is long overdue," Boston College history professor Patrick Maney said. "Will this put an end to all of the conspiracy theories?  Of course not ... But today's release will probably make it harder to sketch an Oliver Stone-like scenario about the assassination."

The law states that not only do all documents need to be released, but documents that were previously released with portions redacted must be released in full with no redactions. 

A batch of 3,810 JFK-related files were released in full for the first time in July, bringing down the National Archives servers at the time and crashing the site. The Archives said it has taken measures to bolster its systems in preparation for the final release.

Maney adds that it will probably take months to properly study and contextualize the newly released batch of documents.  

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