Updated 7:15 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered federal agencies to release nearly 3,000 documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but he is allowing the CIA and the FBI to keep some information out of public view — for now.
While some of the information has remained classified since Kennedy’s murder on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, the order means the “veil will be lifted,” one senior administration official told reporters Thursday evening.
Senior administration officials said Trump issued an order to all relevant federal entities to release around 2,800 documents about the assassination and the subsequent investigation. The order, which the White House intends to release Thursday evening, also allows agencies to redact some still-sensitive information, but orders those entities to review that data and release as much as possible within the next 180 days, the officials said.
Trump initially favored releasing all of the remaining JFK-related documents, the officials said. But some agencies lobbied him that some information about military matters or the conduct of U.S. foreign policy remains too sensitive to this day to make public, the officials said.
The bulk of those redaction requests came from the FBI and CIA, the administration officials said. Among the issues at hand was certain foreign entities cooperation in the subsequent U.S. government investigation. The president ultimately agreed with those agencies that certain information “needed further protection,” the officials said.
When asked if Trump was angry when presented with the agencies’ requests to keep some information classified, one senior administration official told reporters he listened to the agencies’ concerns but made clear he expects their coming reviews of the remaining redacted data to be done thoroughly and quickly, and in the spirit of releasing as much information as possible to the American people.
“Some related documents were created as late as the 1990s,” administration officials said. That means some operatives or foreign assets could still be alive or even active.
Documents were digitized several years ago and will be made public at Archives.gov. The officials said releases will be “rolling,” in accordance with Trump’s guidance to the agencies.
A CIA spokesperson shed some light on the redaction process, saying that even more than a half-century after the assassination, there are still concerns about sources and methods.
“CIA’s current redactions were undertaken with the intent to protect information in the collection whose disclosure would harm national security — including the names of CIA assets and current and former CIA officers, as well as specific intelligence methods and partnerships that remain viable to protecting the nation today,” the spokesperson said in an email.
The spokesperson said that of the JFK records subject to the 1992 law mandating release, some 87,000 were within the purview of the agency. 69,000 have been released to date.
“Every single one of the approximately 18,000 remaining CIA records in the collection will ultimately be released, with no document withheld in full,” the spokesperson said. “While some of these 18,000 records currently contain targeted redactions, the information redacted represents less than one percent of the total CIA information in the collection.”