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White House to postpone release of JFK assassination documents due to pandemic

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White House to postpone release of JFK assassination documents due to pandemic
President John F. Kennedy talks to the nation over radio and TV on October 22, 1962, announcing that Soviet missiles had been deployed in Cuba. He ordered a blockade of the island. This Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. UPI File Photo | License Photo

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The White House postponed release of documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy to allow agencies more time to make redactions amid the pandemic.

Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald, who claimed he was a "patsy" before mob-affiliated nightclub manager Jack Ruby fatally shot him two days later while in police custody.

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The John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act of 1992 declared that "all government records" related to his assassination "should be eventually disclosed to the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination," the White House memo noted.

"Almost 30 years since the act, the profound national tragedy of President Kennedy's assassination continues to resonate in American history and in the memories of so many Americans who were alive on that terrible day; meanwhile, the need to protect records concerning the assassination has only grown weaker with the passage of time," it said.

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The collection contains over 5 million pages, the majority of which were made public years ago, but the act permits delays to protect against "identifiable harm" to public officials.

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Since 2018, agencies have been reviewing each proposed redaction, and this year the National Archives and Records Administration has been reviewing whether each redaction is still needed, but archivists said they needed more time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the agencies," NARA said in its request for more time.

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The Biden administration said in the memo that it agrees with this request.

"Temporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure," the White House memo said.

The memo added that there will be an interim release on Dec. 15, followed by "more comprehensive release in late 2022."

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Since the 1990s, more than 250,000 records related to Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, representing more than 90% of NARA's collection, have been released to the public, according to a White House memo.

Congress gave a 25-year deadline for all files from the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, which the National Archives established in 1992, to be declassified, but in 2017, then-President Donald Trump extended that deadline for six months.

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In 2018, Trump delayed release of 520 still-classified documents, citing "identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs, which "outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure," but released an additional 19,045 documents, many with redactions.

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